London – Chelsea had the look of a champion again as it maintained its comfortable seven-point advantage at the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 victory at Bournemouth on Saturday — but Tottenham Hotspur will not give up the chase.
After Son Heung-min had scored twice in Spurs’ 4-0 thrashing of Watford at White Hart Lane to cut Chelsea’s lead temporarily to four points, Antonio Conte’s men responded emphatically in the late game at Dean Court to move on to 75 points.
Chelsea was aided by Adam Smith’s own goal before the outstanding Eden Hazard slid home a second and Marcos Alonso curled home a stunning free kick. Josh King scored his 13th league goal of the season in response.
The pack chasing Chelsea, headed by Spurs, all won earlier. Fourth-placed Manchester City beat relegation-threatened Hull City 3-1, with Sergio Aguero among the scorers at Etihad Stadium.
Liverpool, which is third but has played more games than its rivals, left it late as substitutes Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino earned a precious 2-1 victory at Stoke City.
At the bottom, West Ham United eased its relegation fears when it ended a five-match losing streak with a 1-0 victory over third-from-bottom Swansea City at London Stadium.
Second-from-bottom Middlesbrough’s hopes of beating the drop are slipping away though after it could only draw 0-0 at home to Burnley — stretching its winless run to 14 league games.
Elsewhere, Southampton won 1-0 at West Bromwich Albion.
In a potentially tricky visit to the sun-drenched south coast, Chelsea started in dominant fashion and led when Diego Costa’s effort deflected in off the unlucky Smith.
There was no luck about Chelsea’s second goal, however, with Hazard, one of the Premier League’s outstanding attacking players, collecting N’Golo Kante’s pass with a superb touch before searing past Artur Boruc and finishing from an angle.
The in-from King pulled a goal back for the hosts but the visitors had too much quality and sealed the win when the often unheralded Alonso curled home a breathtaking free kick to cap an impressive personal performance.
“When you have this type of opponent who is in good form and wants to catch you, it is important to have a good answer. This is a good answer,” Conte told the BBC.
“There are seven games to go and in England it is not easy, there is a lot of pressure. It’s normal to have a good pressure (after Spurs won).”
Tottenham chalked up a sixth successive victory, Dele Alli scoring a superb goal — his 16th of the season in the league — and Eric Dier doubling the lead before Son’s brace.
Spurs will be hoping Manchester United, Chelsea’s next opponents, can do them a favour by beating the Blues.
Tottenham’s 11th consecutive home league win and seventh league victory in which it has scored at least four goals puts it on 68 points and had manager Mauricio Pochettino purring.
“We keep pushing. We’re in a very good position, second in the table,” he said.
Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp made the surprise decision to leave out Coutinho and Firmino at Stoke and when Jonathan Walters gave the hosts the lead just before halftime it appeared to be a costly decision before the Brazilian subs both struck in the second half.
Liverpool move to 63 points — nine ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, which has three games in hand, starting away to Crystal Palace on Monday.
“Job done, feels good. Nice weather, 63 points and I couldn’t feel any better,” smiled Klopp, explaining that Coutinho had been ill during the week.