Match Review: Chelsea 3-1 Swansea City

Updated: February 25, 2017

“Fabregas is magic, he wears a magic hat…”

Chelsea extended their lead atop the Premier League table with a 3-1 victory against Swansea City on Saturday, propelled by an inspired performance by Cesc Fabregas. A thoroughly dominant showing from the Blues was enough to overcome a Fernando Llorente equalizer on the stroke of halftime, and a pair of left-footed strikes from Diego Costa and Pedro secured all three points at Stamford Bridge.

First Half

Antonio Conte’s side was very similar to his preferred starting XI apart from one crucial change: the inclusion of Cesc Fàbregas, who earned only his sixth Premier League start of the season. The manager’s faith was almost immediately repaid when the midfield magician’s beautifully-weighted pass to Pedro nearly set up a goal within one minute of kickoff – a sign of things to come in the first half.

One of the keys to the 2-0 FA Cup victory over Wolves last weekend was the sublime passing of Fàbregas, and today was no different. Over the next twenty minutes, Chelsea applied steady, constant pressure. Managing possession was easy for the home side, as Cesc’s crisp distribution kept the midfield ticking, often quickly switching the play to create space for the dangerous attacking trio of Diego Costa, Pedro, and Eden Hazard.

The first goal came in the 19th minute. Fàbregas—who is often criticized for defensive weaknesses—dispossessed Swans midfielder Tom Carroll and quickly slid the ball to Hazard. After a combination of quick passes between the three forwards, Pedro squared a ball towards Costa who was waiting at the penalty spot. However, Cesc rushed onto the ball and coolly finished past Swansea keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Chelsea continued their first half onslaught and only a superb reflex save by Fabianski denied the Spaniard his second goal of the day. Just before halftime, the Chelsea crowed was stunned into silence by a Fernando Llorente equalizer. The Blues’ back line will be disappointed to have allowed the towering Llorente a free header on a set piece. Surely, Antonio Conte will not be pleased that his defense has been unable to keep a clean sheet for four consecutive Premier League matches.

Second Half

Chelsea did not start the second half with the same verve or intensity as the visitors, who began to enjoy sustained possession in the Chelsea half. As Chelsea responded to the pressure, however, Swansea soon found themselves on their familiar back foot. A Fàbregas shot from outside the box rattled the crossbar moments before referee Neil Swarbrick denied a penalty for a possible César Azpilicueta hand ball – a decision ultimately proven correct.

Fàbregas was again crucial to unlocking a stubborn defense, as his incisive pass to Pedro set up another Chelsea goal in the 72nd minute. Pedro’s first touch took him past Tom Carroll, and his brilliant left-footer curler bamboozled Fabianski, who will surely feel he should have done better.

Pedro was substituted soon after his goal by Nemanja Matic, whose strong tackling and marauding runs added steel to the Chelsea midfield. Diego Costa secured all three points in the 84th minute, finishing off a mazy Hazard run with a close-range volley.

The Gap Widens

xG Shot Map: Chelsea 3-1 Swansea | [Twitter:@11tegen11]

Chelsea will enjoy this deserved victory, a match in which they created more and better chances than the visitors (see above). Chelsea currently sit 11 points clear at the top of table so Conte and his men will be confident for next week’s derby at West Ham United. One thing is certain: team selection may soon become a difficulty for Conte, who may no longer be able to leave an in-form Cesc Fàbregas on the bench. A welcome worry, indeed.

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