Cesc Fàbregas’ 50th Premier League goal in just the fourth minute was enough to strengthen Chelsea’s push for a top four spot with a 1-0 win against a Swansea City team whose survival is yet to be confirmed following other results on the day.
Relegation rivals Southampton, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion all picked up points ahead of kick-off in the South Wales rain; rock bottom West Brom won at Newcastle United, Stoke earned a hard-fought point at Liverpool while Southampton secured a huge 2-1 victory against AFC Bournemouth.
Those outcomes mean the Swans, who have experienced a turn-around in fortunes under manager Carlos Carvalhal, aren’t yet safe from the drop and will be wanting to pick up points in their final three games of the season.
Goal difference could play a huge part in which teams stay up and which will be playing Championship football next term, and it felt like a thumping was on the cards when Fàbregas curled Chelsea into the lead after just four minutes.
Andy King made a mess of Alfie Mawson’s pass in midfield which N’Golo Kanté sprung onto and found Eden Hazard. He drove forward with the ball and expertly clipped the ball into the path of the Spaniard with the outside of his foot before he stroked home with his left foot.
The first-half was packed with questionable decisions by referee Jon Moss, more commonly at the expense of Swansea, and the loudest cheer of the day from the home supporters were cheers of irony, and they came when they were awarded their first free-kick of the day.
It was in a dangerous area as well, and Ki Sung-yeung, expected to depart the Liberty Stadium in the summer, was the man stood over it. His strike was a poor one though, to say the least, and Thibaut Courtois easily gathered.
Strange officiating continued and enraged Swansea forward Andre Ayew after the break when a goal-kick was given to the visitors, even though the ball came off the head of Antonio Rüdiger, who was one of the better players on the pitch throughout the contest.
The introduction of Tom Carroll around the hour-mark prompted a change of formation by Carvalhal as the back three, matching that of Chelsea’s, turned into a back four as Connor Roberts left the field, but that didn’t increase their productivity near the Blues’ goal.
Carroll did have a positive effect in the middle of the park and set up Andre Ayew who bent a promising effort wide of the post from range before defender Kyle Naughton tested Courtois with a rifled strike which was straight at the Belgian goalkeeper.
Swansea had penalty appeals turned down from referee Moss after Nathan Dyer went down inside the box under a challenge from Gary Cahill, but the tackle was a good one an Mr Moss was correct to wave away claims.
The defeat leaves Swansea just one point above the relegation zone, more specifically above Southampton, who they meet, as well as Stoke, in their final three outings. Both of those are at home and they will fancy their chances.
Chelsea are now just two points behind Tottenham Hotspur in fourth, but Spurs do have a game in hand.
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