LONDON: Pedro struck twice as Premier League leaders Chelsea registered a club record 12th successive league win by beating Bournemouth 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Antonio Conte’s side can edge ever closer to Arsenal’s Premier League record of 14 consecutive wins when they face Stoke at the Bridge on Saturday.
Victory then would set up the possibility of matching the record, set across the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, when they travel to face London rivals Tottenham on January 4.
On this form, few would bet against the Blues extending their current run after they moved nine points clear of second placed Liverpool, who host Stoke on Tuesday.
In control long before Pedro put them ahead with a superb individual strike in the 24th minute, they effectively killed off Bournemouth’s hopes with Eden Hazard’s 49th-minute penalty before Pedro’s deflected second wrapped up the win.
Diego Costa’s one-match ban meant Conte was forced to reshuffle his forward line for the first time since his team embarked on their winning run, with Michy Batshuayi hoping to make his first league start since his arrival from Marseille.
Conte, though, had made it clear in the build-up to the game that the 23-year-old still has work to do as he attempts to acclimatise to life in the Premier League.
And Batshuayi once again found himself on the bench as the Chelsea boss opted to stick with his established senior players, moving Hazard into the middle with Willian and Pedro operating either side of the Belgium international.
Conte also made an enforced change in midfield with Cesc Fabregas slotting in alongside Nemanja Matic in place of the suspended N’Golo Kante.
Chelsea’s form has been such, however, that the changes had little effect on Conte’s side, who once again demonstrated the confidence that comes with winning matches.
Last December, Bournemouth’s win at Stamford Bridge helped hasten the departure of former Blues manager Jose Mourinho.
This time around there seemed little chance of a repeat upset with Eddie Howe’s side having won just one of eight away games.
And an early move when Fabregas almost played in Pedro behind the visitors’ defence suggested this would be a testing afternoon for the Cherries.
– Outstanding –
Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta was forced to react quickly to prevent Adam Smith’s low cross reaching Josh King who was positioned in space in front of the home goal.
But that was a fleeting moment of concern for Conte’s side before Pedro produced a moment of outstanding individual skill to put the leaders on course for victory with the 24th-minute opening goal.
Hazard started the move, running incisively towards the heart of the Bournemouth defence before playing the ball into the feet of Fabregas, who found his Spanish international team-mate Pedro with a short pass.
The former Barcelona player did well to create space on the edge of the box before chipping the ball over keeper Artur Boruc and into the top corner of the Bournemouth goal.
Howe’s side responded positively, and in particular Jack Wilshere who produced a weaving run into the home box before testing keeper Thibaut Courtois with a low shot.
Then moments later the on-loan Arsenal midfielder latched onto a poor clearing header only to see his volley deflected wide.
That opportunity provoked an angry reaction from Conte who was frustrated at his side’s failure to organise themselves at the preceding free-kick.
Hazard had been a constant threat and the forward’s powerful running again unsettled the visiting defence, drawing the foul from skipper Simon Francis that ensured the game was effectively over just four minutes after the restart.
Francis’ mistimed challenge sent Hazard sprawling inside the penalty area and the Belgian recovered to convert the resulting penalty.
Pedro’s second goal arrived deep in stoppage time to seal another emphatic victory.