Newly ushered into Chelsea’s starting line-up, Cesc Fabregas wasted no time in repaying his coach for believing in him.
On Wednesday night, the Spaniard ensured The Blues’ title hopes lived on as he scored the sole goal in the encounter with David Moyes’ relegation-threatened side. The former Barca man curled in a sweet finish into the Black Cats’ wide corner from the edge of the 18-yard, taking advantage of a split-second opening in Sunderland’s back line.
This ensures Chelsea, who are now 6 points clear off second place Liverpool, will remain at the summit through Christmas – a position six of the seven past EPL champions occupied during the festive period. Making a bigger claim for The Blues is the stat that reads; they have gone on to win the league title on each of the four previous occasions (2004-05, 2005-06, 2009-10 and 2014-15) they were top during December.
Pickford’s heroics actually aided Sunderland in making sure the margin wasn’t bigger. David Moyes set up his side in two banks of four to soak up pressure from the Londoners’ ever persistent attack force while hoping to hit them on the break.
To some extent, it worked as man of the moment Diego Costa got neutralized while it took some ingenious stop from Thibaut Courtois to deny Patrick Van Aanholt a closing stage equalizer and as Moyers pointed out, “it would have been a really good point.”
Antonio Conte though commended his troops for getting the job done, lamented at his sides’ inability to close out games to avoid unnecessary loss of points – something Manchester United can attest to – especially in the dying minutes of matches. It is hard to blame the Italian’s scepticism when the stats show that this is the third time Chelsea have won by a single goal margin in their last four games.
“When you have the possibility to kill the game you must kill the game,” said the former Italy boss. “We had this possibility but we didn’t and at the end Courtois made a good save. I hope in the future we can improve.”