Hazard and Costa strike as Chelsea march towards the title
Another routine victory over West Ham at the London Stadium leaves the Blues ten points clear of their rivals
West Ham United 1 Chelsea 2
Chelsea cantered to a comfortable victory against West Ham at the London Stadium to extend their lead at the top of the table to ten points. With only 11 matches left to play in the Premier League, time is running out for the Blues' rivals.
Tottenham, ten points adrift, are the closest but perhaps the biggest threat likely to come from Manchester City in third. The Sky Blues trail Chelsea by 11 points, but they have a game in hand and travel to Stamford Bridge in early April in a potentially make-or-break fixture.
But for now Chelsea are sitting pretty thanks to another tactical masterclass from manager Antonio Conte against a West Ham side who had lost just once in their last six league outings going into the London derby.
Aware that the biggest threat would come from the aerial presence of Hammers' striker Andy Carroll, back after a month out with a groin injury, Conte made sure his defenders allowed the big man few sights on goal. With Carroll muzzled, Chelsea opened the scoring midway through the first-half with a lightning counter-attack that was started by N'Golo Kante deep in his own and finished by Eden Hazard's composed finish past Darren Randolph.
Diego Costa doubled the visitors advantage after the break, scrambling Hazard's corner over the West Ham line for his 17th league goal of the season.
The Hammers kept pounding away and got a reward of sorts in stoppage time when Manuel Lanzini fired home, but it was nothing more than a consolation for the hosts.
For Chelsea, the result was their 21st victory of the league season and barring a spectacular slump of form in the spring the title is as good as theirs. Conte was bullish in his belief that his players won't slip up, telling reporters in the post-match press conference of his faith in them. "I must have confidence in my players," he said. "They are showing me great commitment not only in games, but during the week, in every training session, a great will to work and improve, to improve our work. I trust them. Absolutely."
Nonetheless Conte knows that his side mustn't lose their focus in the weeks ahead. "We have deserved to stay on top of the table," he said. "For sure, it won’t be easy to stay there because Tottenham and City, also Liverpool, are there. To see Arsenal drop three points and Manchester United drop two points [at the weekend] was very important because the games are starting to be fewer, but this league will still be really tough until the end."