AFC Bournemouth suffered their seventh defeat of the Premier League season as Eden Hazard’s early second half strike was enough to seal an unconvincing win for current champions Chelsea.
After a first half which lacked chances at either end the Blues made the breakthrough early in the second after a slip from Simon Francis allowed Hazard to cut inside one-on-one with Asmir Begovic before the Belgian thumped the ball home at the near post. The visitors looked quite content to sit back and defend that lead and came up against a Bournemouth side which failed to apply enough pressure to rescue a result. This is the sixth league game out of 10 in which Eddie Howe’s side have failed to score.
The first half was an extremely tight affair with few chances at either end as both sides struggled to break down the back line. A counter attack just after the quarter of an hour mark provided Bournemouth’s best chance of the half. Bearing down on goal, Benik Afobe over-hit his pass out wide to the on-running Charlie Daniels, however the fullback was able to pull the ball back to the Cherries striker only for the Ivorian’s subsequent effort to be well blocked by David Luiz.
Alvaro Morata had the two best opportunities to open the scoring, with the first coming via a mistake from Begovic. The former Chelsea goalkeeper passed the ball out straight from a goal kick to Hazard, who looked to pounce as he played Morata in behind the defence. One-on-one with the Cherries keeper, the Spanish striker fired wide at the near post to spurn a glorious chance.
On 34 minutes Morata was in on goal up against Begovic once more, but the striker had to be much quicker with releasing this effort this time. The number nine’s strike was on target and produced an exceptional save from the Bosnian with his outstretched arm while diving to turn it over the bar. The Blues dominated the latter exchanges of the half but were unable to make the breakthrough before the break.
AFC Bournemouth came out with a spring in their step to begin the second half, with Jordon Ibe coming on to replace Jermain Defoe. The home side’s intensity and early pressure was quickly snuffed out as Chelsea took the lead.
Morata’s over the top through ball was aimed towards Hazard, who was being challenged by Francis, but the Cherries skipper mistimed his jump to win the ball and then slipped, allowing the winger to get in behind the defence. The Belgian hammered the ball past Begovic at the near post to open the scoring with his first Premier League goal of the season.
Somewhat surprisingly Chelsea were quite happy to sit back and hold out for their 1-0 lead, asking the question of the home side as to whether they could apply any pressure on a stubborn Blues back line.
Substitute Ibe made positive impact on proceedings and fired a strike narrowly over the bar, but was unable to repeat his heroics from the Cherries only home league win so far this season against Brighton & Hove Albion last month.
There is a fresh injury concern for Junior Stanislas after he pulled up while on the ball, instantly being replaced by Marc Pugh. Afobe also went down injured a few minutes later which resulted in Callum Wilson being called to action to make his long awaited first Premier League appearance of the season.
Cesc Fabregas had a good chance to seal the three points for Chelsea on 83 minutes but put his shot from a tight angle across goal narrowly over the bar.
With the opportunity there for the home side to nick a result, Howe’s side were unable to make any real notable chances, much to the home crowds frustration. The only chance fell to Steve Cook in stoppage time, but his effort only found Thibaut Courtois’ gloves in what was a routine save for the Belgian keeper.
The Cherries remain 19th in the table on seven points and their attention now turns towards their trip to Teesside to face Newcastle United next Saturday.