Keeping cool under pressure was the order of the day when we headed to Dorset during the run-in three years ago…
Neither as prolific nor as parsimonious as we had been earlier in the campaign, Antonio Conte’s Chelsea had eight matches in which to secure yet another league title going into a Saturday evening fixture at Bournemouth on 8 April 2017.
Earlier the same day Tottenham had whacked Watford 4-0 to reduce the gap behind the leaders to four, but the Italian coach’s ‘work hard’ mantra was still in play.
‘I think Spurs’ win changes nothing,’ he said before the 5.30pm kick-off. ‘We have to play our game with our football to try to take three points.’ Conte added Victor Moses and Nemanja Matic to his tried and tested 3-4-3 line-up, with Kurt Zouma and Cesc Fabregas making way.
As ever, the Cherries were keen to take the game to the title favourites but the space they left at the back was ruthlessly exploited. Our opener was simple proof: David Luiz played a raking pass wide to set Moses free, and when his pass found Diego Costa, the misfiring striker’s off-kilter shot found the net only after a deflection.
The lead was doubled after N’Golo Kante brilliantly passed the ball over the hosts’ high line into Eden Hazard’s path. The Belgian coolly rounded goalkeeper Artur Boruc, side-footing into the empty net.
Josh King’s shot diverted in off David Luiz to cut the advantage, but Marcos Alonso confirmed the three points would be heading to the capital with a sumptuous free-kick over the wall and into the top corner, completing the 3-1 final score.
Afterwards, goalscorer Hazard was less circumspect than his boss had been pre-match. ‘We passed a test,’ he acknowledged. ‘We knew the result of Tottenham before the game and today we deserved to win. We have to believe in everything. Now is one step closer to the title and we have seven games left.’
The maths meant a maximum of five wins would be required to secure the league title for the sixth time. In the event four proved sufficient, and Conte’s men completed the job at West Bromwich Albion in May.
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