Alvaro Morata and Marcos Alonso scored second-half headers to give Chelsea a 2-0 win over Premier League newcomers Brighton & Hove Albion as the Blues got back to winning ways at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
After drawing 0-0 with Everton, the defending champions were under pressure to eke out a win and were boosted by the return of star striker Alvaro Morata from a one-game suspension but Brighton’s stubborn resistance frustrated the hosts for the first 45 minutes.
It was one-way traffic, as expected, but the visitors were gamely holding on, with the likes of Eden Hazard looking bright but proving to be ineffective.
The second-half, however, began on the best possible note for the Blues as the familiar combo of Cezar Azpilicueta-Alvaro Morata struck again. The Spanish defender swung in an inviting cross for his compatriot and the £60 million man headed home in the 46th minute to give the hosts a vital breakthrough.
Chelsea continued to dominate, but Brighton custodian Mathew Ryan was in inspired form and continued to keep his side in the tie.
The result of the game was put beyond doubt on the hour-mark as Blues midfielder Cesc Fabregas set up Marcos Alonso for a simple header to double the Blues’ lead.
Once again, it was the Spanish connection that did the trick for the West London outfit and Stamford Bridge was loving it.
Conte’s men never truly took the foot of the gas, despite the Italian hooking some of his players as they saw out the game to go within a point of second-placed Manchester United.
The Red Devils could only manage a 2-2 draw at home to Burnley and Chelsea will take heart from the fact that while the Premier League title may be a foregone conclusion, but the race for second spot is very much alive.