Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas ensure Chelsea maintain winning momentum

Cesc Fabregas’ early goal led Chelsea to a win at relegation-threatened Swansea, putting the Blues only two points behind Tottenham for fourth.
Cesc Fabregas’ early goal led Chelsea to a win at relegation-threatened Swansea, putting the Blues only two points behind Tottenham for fourth.
Eden Hazard reacts to how Chelsea have closed the gap to Spurs in recent weeks, and rates the Blues’ chances of finishing in the top four.

Chelsea narrowed the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham to one point with a 1-0 win at Swansea that was clinched in just the fourth minute when Cesc Fabregas coolly dispatched a beautifully weighted pass from Eden Hazard into the top corner. The visitors continued to pile on the pressure in the first half but somehow failed to add to their tally.

While Swansea improved after the break, Chelsea looked more likely to score next. Hazard was causing problems, an epic Emerson Palmieri run ended with a tame shot and Victor Moses contrived to miss from a yard out. Swansea piled forward in the closing stages but without extending Thibaut Courtois.

Positives

A fourth successive win in all competitions has boosted confidence at just the right time, with Chelsea requiring perfection until the end of the season if they are to have any chance of achieving Champions League qualification. This was also a second straight clean, which is not to be overlooked considering the defensive woes of recent months.

Negatives

The closing minutes were unnecessarily nervy as, yet again, Chelsea failed to kill off their opponents when in the ascendancy. Despite some excellent approach play, some of the decisions and touches in the final third were poor and Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski was not tested often enough.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Antonio Conte made an interesting decision to play three in midfield and it largely paid off with Chelsea controlling the centre of the pitch and breaking forward dangerously. He made the correct substitutions at the right time with Hazard and Olivier Giroud especially jaded after expending plenty of effort.

Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 — Had almost no shots to deal with until the final minutes and handled them comfortably. But some of his distribution was dreadful and there was an uncharacteristic misjudgment that almost allowed Jordan Ayew to head into an empty net.

DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 8 — An absolute rock in defence, he made countless interceptions, blocks and headers out of his own area. There was one error with a clearance late on but he was not made to pay.

DF Gary Cahill, 7 — Aerially excellent as he dominated his sphere of influence, but some of his passing left something to be desired; some were overhit, others misplaced.

DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 — Typically strong and dominant without pulling up any trees. Controlled his area well and was caught out just once.

Eden Hazard set up Chelsea’s winner in a fine individual display vs. Swansea.

MF Emerson Palmieri, 8 – Another impressive display from the Brazilian wing-back, who has made light of Marcos Alonso’s suspension. Surprisingly effective defending aerial balls, he showed purpose going forward.

MF Victor Moses, 7 — Made some key defensive interventions including one vital clearing header at the far post. Should have scored when he diverted Fabregas’ shot just wide.

MF N’Golo Kante, 8 — Yet another consummate midfield display from the French international, who was effective as ever in recovering the ball and also used it well. One smart pass featured in the build up to Chelsea’s goal.

MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 7 — There were some predictable moments of hesitation but, in general, this was a positive display. Used the ball simply but intelligently as he grew into the game.

MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 — His beautiful left-foot finish deserved to win the match. Fabregas showed the required composure to keep probing for chances even if not enough was made of any openings he created.

FW Eden Hazard, 8 — Buzzed around with devilish intent in the first half as Swansea struggled to contain him. Faded a little in the second period, but was still Chelsea’s most threatening player.

FW Olivier Giroud, 6 — There were a few nice layoffs in the first half and he was effective in the air but, overall, his was a slightly clumsy display. More often than not, his movement or touch served to stall attacks rather than build them.

Substitutes

FW Willian, NR — He had few touches in attacking areas as Swansea dominated the closing minutes.

FW Pedro Rodriguez, NR — Got involved in creating chances, though without finding the decisive touch.

FW Alvaro Morata. NR — Was knocked of the ball a couple of times but also showed some classy touches to keep the ball high up the pitch.

Phil is one of ESPN’s Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.

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