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Chelsea end a difficult few days by strolling to comfortable victory over below-par Huddersfield

Huddersfield 1 Chelsea 3: The Blues gave their head coach something to feel warm about at the end of a testing few days

Mike Whalley
John Smith's Stadium
Tuesday 12 December 2017 22:49 GMT
Chelsea are now level on points with Manchester United
Chelsea are now level on points with Manchester United (Getty)

Chelsea fans have been wondering for months when they might begin to see something of value from Tiemoue Bakayoko. The £40m summer signing from Monaco finally provided some sort of answer last night.

The French midfielder’s calm finish set Antonio Conte’s side on their way to a comfortable victory over a below-par Huddersfield, and gave their head coach something to feel warm about at the end of a testing few days.

Bakayoko had some making up to do after his error allowed Marko Arnautovic to score West Ham’s sixth-minute winner on Saturday. Indeed, many Chelsea fans would suggest he has more to apologise for than that, having made a woeful start to his Stamford Bridge career.

The 23rd-minute minute goal with which he gave Chelsea the lead was some form of atonement. It came after an opening quarter in which the visitors had enjoyed more of the possession, without doing much to threaten the home goal.

Chelsea were helped in the build-up by goalkeeper Jonas Lossl, who slipped as he attempted a clearance that was headed straight back by Victor Moses. Eden Hazard then produced a deft volleyed flick towards Willian, who fed a pass left for Bakayoko to lift over the advancing Lossl, just defeating Chris Lowe’s attempt to clear off the line.

It was just the tonic Conte needed. When the head coach has not been complaining about fixture congestion, he has been grumbling about a perceived lack of financial support from Chelsea’s board. His attitude is not one that has endeared him to the Stamford Bridge hierarchy, and there is a growing sense that he will be allowed to return to his native Italy when his contract runs out at the end of next season.

For his side’s fourth game of nine in a packed December, Conte was without his 10-goal top scorer Alvaro Morata because of a bad back, with Eden Hazard deployed as a false nine in front of Willian and Pedro. Huddersfield had no answer.

Having taken the lead, Chelsea never looked like surrendering it. On Saturday, their players were pilloried for using hot water bottles to keep warm on the bench. Last night, those on the field generated too much heat for their opponents to cope with.

Pedro blasted over from the edge of the penalty area after Willian’s free-kick had come out off team-mate Marcos Alonso at the near post.

Then from another Willian free-kick, this time from the right, Bakayoko climbed above Danny Williams to glance a header narrowly wide.

Bakayoko opened the scoring (Getty)

The visitors got the second goal with just over two minutes to go to half-time. Azpilicueta’s long diagonal pass from inside his own half found Alonso in far too much space on the left, and he had time to cross for Willian to bounce in a header at the far post.

It almost got worse for Huddersfield before half-time, as Lowe’s wayward crossfield pass allowed Hazard time to play Pedro clear, but Lossl advanced well to block the Spain striker’s attempted chip.

But a third Chelsea goal took less than five minutes of the second half to arrive – and again it came from an Alonso left-wing cross, with Willian holding off Mathias Jorgensen and teeing up Pedro to hammer into the top corner from 18 yards.

Pedro lashed in the third (Getty)

The impressive Hazard almost wriggled through the home defence for a fourth, but Lossl blocked with his legs at the near post.

Huddersfield, well beaten by now, at least tried to make a game of it, as Tom Ince was denied by Andreas Christensen’s headed clearance after forcing a shot past Thibaut Courtois, before Mathias Jorgensen whizzed a 25-yard shot just over.

The home side continued to look vulnerable at the back, with Tommy Smith’s slip almost leading to a fourth goal, as Bakayoko got clear down the left and played a low ball in for Willian to set up Pedro, who drove wide. By then, however, Chelsea had already done more than enough; Laurent Depoitre’s glancing header into the net from fellow substitute Florent Hadergjonaj’s left-wing cross was only a consolation for Huddersfield.

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