EPL 2016/17: Bournemouth 1-3 Chelsea, 5 Talking Points

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Thibaut Courtois of Chelsea and Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea embrace after the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Chelsea at Vitality Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Conte hugs Courtois after the Blues clinched all points on the south coast

Chelsea took home all three points from an end-to-end encounter in the south coast, but the scoreline does not do justice to the Cherries’ efforts and spirit.

An unfortunate Adam Smith own goal in the 17th-minute put the Blues ahead, while an Eden Hazard beauty within a few moments put them firmly in the driver’s seat.

However, a few minutes ahead of half-time, Joshua King pulled one back for the hosts with a deflected shot off David Luiz, raising hopes of a Bournemouth fight-back in the second half.

In this piece, we take a look at the five talking points from the game.

#5 Costa and King – an evening of contrasts

Josh King had a superb evening, despite being on the losing side

Diego Costa had a blazing start to the 2016/17 season, scoring goals at will and seeming to reach the double figure mark quite effortlessly. However, the Blues man has now gone four league games without a goal; his last one came against West Ham over a month ago.

That is not to say he was ineffective; his name was not on the score-sheet but he was far from anonymous. The striker brought his teammates into play and set up Pedro and Hazard on a couple of occasions and linked well with the latter as the game went on.

Also Read: Conte defends Costa after striker's goalless run extends in Bournemouth win

However, he looked frustrated in the final third throughout, and even the shot he took from a few yards out leading to the opener was off-target.

While Costa is on a barren run, his opposite number from Cherries is anything but.

Josh King scored his 10th goal in 11 league games with a lovely shot just before half-time, off Benik Afobe’s through-ball. The Norwegian, who had rescued a point for the Cherries at Anfield midweek, gave his team hope and impetus with his strike and a work-rate to match it.

#4 Cherries show resilience but defensive lapses still a worry

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and Adam Smith of AFC Bournemouth battle to win a header during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Chelsea at Vitality Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Adam Smith’s own goal set it up nicely for the Blues

For the best part of an hour, Bournemouth held their own against the league leaders, refusing to be bullied or awed by their superior quality or position in the table. It showed why and how they have come so far under Eddie Howe – from League two to the Premier League, no less - in just five seasons of having the Englishman at the helm.

They fashioned a few chances but a couple of errors is what mainly cost them against the Blues.

Diego Costa is a deadly striker, of course, but one looking for momentum in recent games. His awkwardly taken shot was going away from goal until – inexplicably, but unfortunately – Adam Smith intervened, to score on the wrong side of the pitch. That gave Conte’s charges a much-needed lift.

Hazard’s goal was beautifully taken and brilliantly assisted by N’Golo Kante but a pass that went astray in midfield while Bournemouth were in possession was what eventually led to it.

Given that their opponents have the second best defence in the league, Eddie Howe set up his men to attack and play within their limitations but the Cherries’ high defensive line was often carved open by the Blues’ wingers.

It was also a very lousy challenge by Steve Cook on Costa that resulted in the free kick which eventually led to the Marcos Alonso goal. There was no need to make that tackle and concede a dangerous set piece when there is still time and threat in the game to grab a point or even win.

While Afobe, Ryan Fraser and King are a threat in attack, Howe will need to iron out the creases in his team before they head up to North London next week to face Tottenham Hotspur.

#3 Eden Hazard master-class lights up a sunny afternoon; equals own best tally

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 08:  Adam Smith of AFC Bournemouth (L) and Eden Hazard of Chelsea (R) battle for possession during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Chelsea at Vitality Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
The Belgian forward had another impressive outing against Bournemouth

This man is on fire and the media (and yours truly) are falling short of adjectives to effectively describe the Belgian’s impact on a weekly basis.

He followed up a brace against Pep Guardiola’s side with an exquisite finish at Dean Court.

Also Read: Leaders passed the test - Hazard hails Chelsea's battling spirit

Latching on to Kante’s pass – whose vision was commendable, to say the least – the diminutive Belgian timed his run to perfection and dropped his shoulder before going around Artur Boruc and beating three other Bournemouth players to put the ball in the back of the net.

When he is on song, there is rarely a better sight to watch. Tonight was definite confirmation of his master-class (and that last season was merely an aberration) if ever one was needed.

With his goal against Bournemouth, Hazard has now scored 14 in the Premier League, equalling his best tally from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. The Blues have seven games left to play and he is certainly on course to beat his own benchmark.

#2 Missed chances (and luck) prove to be a significant opportunity cost for Bournemouth

Ryan Fraser
The Cherries started the game brightly

Bournemouth started off brightly, going all out in attack and maintaining a high defensive line. Howe’s tactics almost yielded results in the opening minutes as the hosts’ pressing game put Luiz under pressure, requiring Thibaut Courtois to make a stunning save off the defender.

However, Ryan Fraser and Harry Arter sent their shots over the bar instead of capitalising on set pieces from well-placed areas. Benik Afobe was extremely unfortunate to see his shot ricochet off the post after leaving the Blues defenders in his wake.

Fortune, or the lack of it, also proved to be telling for the opening goal of the night as Smith came out of nowhere to slot it in for Chelsea.

Against an opponent as clinical and unforgiving as the Blues, Bournemouth could not afford any lapses at all; besides making errors, not finishing their chances proved costly for the hosts.

#1 Chelsea get the job done, maintain title push

BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: N'Golo Kante of Chelschallenges clears the ball during the Premier League match between AFC Bournemouth and Chelsea at Vitality Stadium on April 8, 2017 in Bournemouth, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Chelsea battled hard to come on top against Bournemouth

The Blues’ slight stumble against fellow Londoners, Crystal Palace, last week, seemed to give a glimmer of hope to Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

Saturday’s first game was an afternoon showdown between Tottenham Hotspur and Watford at White Hart Lane, by the end of which the Lilywhites had sent the hapless Hornets to the cleaners.

Also Read: I don't smell the title - Conte wants Chelsea focus

This put the onus on Chelsea to clinch all three points away at Bournemouth and they did not have the brightest of starts as the Cherries started on the front foot while also managing to contain Conte’s men.

Adam Smith stepped to turn in an off-target Diego Costa shot into his own net but Chelsea dug deep and relied on their quality and experience to see off an exuberant and valiant, but vulnerable Cherries side.

Hazard gave the Blues a slender lead before Alonso’s peach of a free kick put the game out of reach. Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta and Courtois all played a role in the win, stepping up defensively when required the most. In fact, Kante not only won the ball back but also assisted his first ever league goal for Chelsea by setting up Hazard.

It also ensured that Spurs were kept at bay, seven points still separating the two London rivals at the top two spots of the league table having played the same number of games.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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