Chelsea secured a slender 1-0 win over Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, with a Marcos Alonso free-kick the difference between the two sides.
The hosts were looking to build on their impressive midweek win over Huddersfield, although Antonio Conte made just one change with Gary Cahill replacing Antonio Rudiger, as Alvaro Morata had to settle for a place on the bench.
That left Eden Hazard to continue to play centrally, but both sides struggled to find a breakthrough. However, it was Alonso who stepped up with his fourth goal of the season as he whipped in a brilliant free-kick just before half-time to separate the two sides.
It was a good performance from Chelsea that arguably deserved more goals, but Conte will be pleased with three points and a clean sheet to show for their efforts as they hope to now put together a strong run of form.
Nevertheless, he would have ideally secured a more comfortable scoreline with the Saints making it difficult for his side, while he’ll likely be delighted to have Morata back at full fitness next week with the Spanish forward offering a different dynamic to the attack and a clinical edge which could have proved decisive on this occasion.
Chelsea player ratings: Courtois 7; Azpilicueta 6, Christensen 6, Cahill 6; Moses 6, Bakayoko 7, Kante 6, Alonso 8; Willian 5, Hazard 7, Pedro 7.
Substitutes: Fabregas 7, Morata N/A, Zappacosta N/A.
Aside from the result, there were some key stats to emerge from the game, as midfielder N’Golo Kante reached a memorable milestone in Chelsea colours, making his 50th appearance for the club in the Premier League.
After playing an instrumental role in their title success last season, he’ll hope to continue to be pivotal to their hopes of more silverware moving forward, but time will tell what’s on their radar come next May.
Meanwhile, Alonso also continues to put himself above the competition when it comes to defenders having an impact in the attacking phase of the game, as he’s been involved in 14 goals since he made his debut, with 10 goals and four assists, three more than compatriot Cesar Azpilicueta in that same timeframe.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 16, 2017
Highest PL goal involvement by defenders since Marcos Alonso made his @ChelseaFC debut
14 – M. Alonso (10 goals, 4 assists)
11 – C. Azpilicueta
9 – C. Daniels
9 – B. Davies
9 – H. Maquire
9 – R. Bertrand
9 – K. Trippier pic.twitter.com/YQrX4aHFwH
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) December 16, 2017
In terms of the fan reaction, it’s fair to say that they were pleased with the performance and result, even though Conte did face some criticism prior to kick-off for his decision to bring in Cahill as well as opting to leave Morata on the bench.
Nevertheless, with three points in the bag and as they continue to battle for a top four finish this season to secure Champions League qualification, this is an important win that keeps them ahead of the chasing pack.
Nice win today, happy that we picked up the three points.
Time to focus on the Quarterfinal of the Carabao Cup!!
— Lav (@LavCFC) December 16, 2017
the result is the most important thing, and that’s the three points. Onto the next game. #UTC
— ConteTweets (@ConteTweetss) December 16, 2017
— JS (@HazardousMorata) December 16, 2017
Good performance, 3points in the bag???
— Gracey (@grace1670) December 16, 2017
3 point in bag now we put pressure on the Manchester clubs cmon Tottenham
— AlvaroMorata9AM (@Morata9Am) December 16, 2017
Could’ve scored so many more but I’m still happy for the 3 points??? #KTBFFH
— Cía ™ (@Poccahontasz) December 16, 2017
I’ve missed the actual Marcos Alonso.
Great to have you back @marcosalonso03
— A’Azeez Olanrewaju (@MyNameIsLanray) December 16, 2017
How did we only win that by one goal? ? Southampton looked much more dangerous after Austin and Boufal came on. I’m glad they didn’t start. Satisfying three points and a clean sheet to boot! Well done Chelsea! ??
— Tom Andrews (@CarefreeTom_182) December 16, 2017