Chelsea three points from title as thumping win relegates Middlesbrough

May 9, 2017
Source: BBC
Chelsea three points from title as thumping win relegates Middlesbrough

Chelsea moved to within one win of the Premier League title and confirmed Middlesbrough's relegation with a consummate performance and emphatic victory at Stamford Bridge.

Antonio Conte's side can become champions with victory against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns on Friday night while Middlesbrough must contemplate a future back in the Championship after they were swept aside on Monday.

The Blues had already created a succession of chances before Diego Costa turned in man of the match Cesc Fabregas' pass after 23 minutes.

And the contest was effectively over when Marcos Alonso scored at the far post via the legs of Middlesbrough keeper Brad Guzan 11 minutes before the break.

Fabregas created Chelsea's third which Nemanja Matic converted as the hosts laid siege to Boro's goal, with the final whistle bringing contrasting emotions.

In this mood it is hard to see the league title coming from anywhere other than at West Brom on Friday night.

Baggies manager Tony Pulis was watching from the stand at Stamford Bridge and will have gone away with plenty of food for thought after a Chelsea display that oozed class and intent.

Middlesbrough - downhearted, defeated and on their way back to the Championship - were little more than cannon fodder here.

From the opening moments when Guzan turned Alonso's shot on to the bar, Chelsea were rampant, nerveless and played with the swagger, poise and menace of the best team in the Premier League.

Chelsea's nerves may have shown momentarily in those defeats at home to Crystal Palace and at Manchester United in April, but the response has been magnificent, reeling off wins in the FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham and in the Premier League against Southampton, Everton and now Middlesbrough.

It is a question of when, rather than if the ebullient, effervescent Conte claims the title in his first season in England - and Chelsea will be fully deserved champions.

Fabregas shows touches of genius

Chelsea's fans talk about Fabregas wearing a "magic hat", but all the magic was in his boots as he picked the visitors apart here at Stamford Bridge.

The 30-year-old was a key purchase from Barcelona when Jose Mourinho brought the title back to Chelsea to two seasons ago. But this season he will be a different kind of title-winner.

The signing of N'Golo Kante from Leicester City and Chelsea's subsequent success has meant Fabregas, who would have been first choice in almost every other Premier League side, has been marginalised and unable to claim a regular place.

When he has, however, the Spain midfielder has shown the class and quality that has made him one of the game's enduring talents in the recent era.

Fabregas stepped in here for the injured Kante and gave a midfield masterclass, and when he created Chelsea's opener for Costa he became the first player to record 10 Premier League assists in six different seasons.

He also created Chelsea's third for Matic with a glorious instinctive flick that unlocked Middlesbrough again.

Fabregas may wish to seek more regular first team football elsewhere despite being on course to claim another Premier League title winners' medal - and on this evidence there will be no shortage of takers.