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Chelsea open up 6 point lead courtesy of Fabregas strike

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Chelsea moved six points clear of Arsenal and Liverpool at the top of the Premier League standings courtesy of a 1-0 win away to bottom of the league Sunderland. Cesc Fabregas scored the only goal of the game in the 40th minute, capitalizing on a rare start with a precise finish from Willian's square pass.

Chelsea bossed the game and will be a tad disappointed not to have won it by a bigger margin, and in the end owe a debt of thanks to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who produced an excellent late save to ensure a 10th straight win on the bounce for the blues.

The Blues made two changes to the team that beat West Brom 1-0 at the weekend with Willian replacing the injured Eden Hazard, while Cesc Fabregas was rewarded for his recent contributions with a rare start in place of Nemanja Matic. Chelsea also welcomed back Kurt Zouma from injury, with the young French defender replacing John Terry on the Blues' bench.

Sunderland meanwhile were without Victor Anichebe and Steven Pienaar, both out through injury, and were replaced in the starting line-up by former Liverpool man Fabio Borini and Manchester United loanee Adnan Januzaj. John O’Shea also returned to the Sunderland side, captaining the side alongside former Chelsea defender Papy Djilobodji.

Chelsea made a bright start to the game with former Sunderland wing back Marcus Alonso having an early effort put behind for a corner. The set piece made its way back to the Spaniard, who smashed his effort from distance high and not very handsome.

It was the Blues who were doing the bulk of the attacking as one would expect from a game where top met bottom, but Sunderland did have a couple of attempts in the opening half hour through Billy Jones and Januzaj. Neither man though managed to test Thibaut Courtois in the Chelsea goal.

Chelsea were finding plenty of space down the left wing to attack from, but their crossing failed to create anything of note as Sunderland looked to ensure nothing made its way to Costa.

Just as it looked like Sunderland would manage to hang on till half-time, some hard work from Chelsea in the middle of the park paid off. N'Golo Kante won the ball and found Willian, who put in a low pass to Fabregas at the edge of the box. The 29 year old Spaniard placed the ball in the bottom corner, hitting it with precision instead of power to put Chelsea 1-0 up.

Jermain Defoe and John O'Shea ended the half by going into the book, while a late freekick awarded to Chelsea from shooting range was wasted by Willian.

Sunderland had their best chance of the game right after the restart with the Black Cats getting a lucky bounce off the referee before Januzaj goes through on goal, only to see his shot well saved by Courtois.

Back up the other end, Chelsea looked to exploit the space available as Sunderland were forced to come out of their shell. First, Victor Moses flashed his effort wide before Willian was denied by the woodwork after his shot from the right took a deflection that gave Jordan Pickford absolutely no chance.

Chelsea were firmly on top in the second half as they looked to kill the game as a contest with Diego Costa the latest to be denied by Pickford.

Half-chances kept coming Chelsea's way, but the Blues managed to drag a lot of efforts wide of target.

In the last 10 minutes, the Blues appeared to find another gear, but Willian had his effort saved by Pickford, who then raced off his line to deny Costa. Cesc Fabregas should have added to his goal tally 2 minutes before the end, but sliced his shot wide after having been set up well by Costa.

For a second it appeared that Chelsea might be left to rue those misses, but Courtois came to their rescue to deny another former Chelsea man in Patrick van Aanholt, whose effort from range appeared destined for the back of the net, only for the big Belgian to save two important points for the visitors in the title race.

Up next for Chelsea is a trip to Crystal Palace, where history beckons as the Blues look to set a new personal best of 11 consecutive wins in a season.

Teams:

Sunderland: Pickford, Jones (Love 59'), Kone, Djilobodji, O’Shea, van Aanholt, Denayer, Kirchhoff (Larsson 57'), Borini (Khazri 82'), Januzaj, Defoe.

Subs: Mannone, Larsson, Khazri, Love, Asoro, Maja, Honeyman.

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian (Chalobah 89'), Diego Costa, Pedro (Matic 76').

Subs: Begovic, Ivanovic, Zouma, Chalobah, Matic, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi.

Final Score: Sunderland 0-1 Chelsea (Fabregas 40')

Also Read: Fabregas post match reaction

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