Chelsea 3-1 Swansea: Blues move 11 points clear at top
By Stephen Turner
Last Updated: 26/02/17 11:50am
Chelsea took advantage of their Premier League pursuers' idle Saturday to open an 11-point lead with a 3-1 defeat of Swansea at Stamford Bridge.
Cesc Fabregas' strike on his 300th league appearance (19) set the leaders on their way, although it took late goals from Pedro and Diego Costa to get the job done after Fernando Llorente headed an equaliser in first-half stoppage time.
Swansea may point - with some justification - to an unpunished Cesar Azpilicueta handball in his own penalty box with the score at 1-1, referee Neil Swarbrick apparently ruling the close-quarters contact accidental.
But Chelsea were good value for a welcome win after twice dropping points in their past three matches, and they might have won by more as Fabregas alone came close to a hat-trick during a rare 90 minutes under Antonio Conte.
A sixth start in this season's Premier League made him the first Spanish member of the competition's 300 club, and he took his landmark appearance as an opportunity to showcase his enduring class.
Fabregas played the midfield metronome role with customary measure - as much tick-tock as tiki-taka - splintered his short passing with the odd well-aimed slingshot into the runs of his front three, and caused Swansea countless problems with ambitious late arrivals in their box.
One such run brought the opener as a Pedro pass aimed at Costa was quickly brought under control and prodded into the far corner with Lukasz Fabianski still setting himself.
Fabianski denied his old Arsenal team-mate a second shortly afterwards and later stood spectating as Fabregas' firm side-footer rebounded off his crossbar.
By that stage the game was level. Somehow. Swansea manager Paul Clement, returning to the club where he won the title as Carlo Ancelotti's assistant, had called the trip a "shot to nothing" for Swansea, but they registered naught in the shots column until the final few seconds of the first half when Gylfi Sigurdsson's flat free-kick was met by Llorente as Chelsea's defenders left it to each other.
Had the game finished even there might have been words about the legitimacy of the free-kick - dubiously awarded against N'Golo Kante - but Swansea had a complaint of their own when Azpilicueta's outstretched arm blocked Sigurdsson's flick after the break.
The moment passed and Chelsea exacted full toll. Fabianski, who had outdone his first-half stop from Fabregas with a better one to deny Eden Hazard, was at fault as he dived over a Pedro curler (72) which was decent but no more.
And the game was up when Costa slammed in Hazard's cut-back on the volley (84) for a 16th league goal, Swansea slipping to a third league defeat of Clement's promising tenure that leaves them three points above the relegation places with an overdue run of four bottom-half opponents to come.
Chelsea: Courtois (6) Moses (6) Azpilicueta (7) Luiz (6) Cahill (7) Alonso (7) Kante (7) Fabregas (8) Pedro (8) Hazard (7) Costa (7)
Subs used: Matic (7) Willian (5) Zouma (5)
Swansea: Fabianski (7) Naughton (5) Mawson (6) Fernandez (6) Olsson (5) Cork (6) Fer (5) Carroll (4) Sigurdsson (6) Routledge (5) Llorente (7)
Subs used: Narsingh (5) Ayew (5)
Man of the match: Cesc Fabregas