Football

Chelsea's perfect 10

Blues boss Conte remains cautious despite team's excellent form

Chelsea boss Antonio Conte was in no mood to allow his players to celebrate despite seeing them complete a 10-game Premier League winning streak.

The Blues eased six points clear of Liverpool and Arsenal at the top of the table as a result of their 1-0 victory at Sunderland yesterday morning (Singapore time), and are guaranteed to lead the pack at Christmas.

However, Conte was already turning his mind to Saturday's clash with Crystal Palace within minutes of the final whistle.

He said: "I am pleased for my players because they deserve this for their commitment and work-rate every day, in every training session and during the game.

"Now for sure we have to continue. In three days, on Saturday, we will have another tough game against Crystal Palace.

"I hope we recover very well after this battle to try to arrive at Christmas in an incredible position in the table.

"I prefer not to look at the table. I prefer this for me and for my players because we are doing something important until now, but the league didn't finish today.

"We are on top of the table, but there are still three games to end the first part of the season and then (another) 19 games. This league is very tough and I think until the end it will be a big battle between six teams."

Victory at the Stadium of Light was secured by Cesc Fabregas' 40th-minute strike, his first league goal of the season in just his third start in the competition.

Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante are Conte's first-choice central midfield pairing and Fabregas took his goal as an opportunity to snipe at critics who suggest he is on the wane.

The former Arsenal and Barcelona man said: "In football today people forget very, very, very quickly who you are, and what you can do.

"Hopefully, now I can get a run of games in the team.

"People forget that tonight is just the second time in my life that I have played this system.

"I am getting used to it, I have lots of players in front of me in space and protection behind me."

Thibaut Courtois could have used more protection when he had to pull off two excellent saves to deny Adnan Januzaj shortly after the break and then Patrick van Aanholt deep into stoppage time.

Said Sunderland boss David Moyes: "Coming off the pitch, we could come off saying we had a right go to try to have a go at a top team.

"The goalkeeper made two great saves, the first one as well.

"Obviously the second one will get all the plaudits because of the type it was, but I thought we got better in the second half and we finished the game quite strongly."

Conte, too, praised his goalkeeper, saying he is the best in the world.

He said: "For Thibaut it's more difficult because for the whole game you wait and you could lose concentration.

"But he is a fantastic goalkeeper - one of the best in the world, if not the best, and I'm pleased to have him in my team."

KEEPING WARM

The Belgian revealed that the secret to keeping his concentration was keeping warm.

He explained: "I always try to stay 100 per cent concentrated.

"It was cold as well so at half time I went out with the goalkeeper trainer just to stay warm again. I think when it's summer weather or not cold you can stay warm, no problem.

"But when it's cold like this it's good to keep yourself warm so you can be busy with your hands.

"It proved to be good because early in the second half I made a good save and then in the last minute as well, so it's really good."

Gary Cahill added: "We are not letting goals in, we are keeping clean sheets at the minute.

"Thibaut pulled off two vital saves for us, so obviously a big shout out to Thibaut for the one at his legs, and the one late on was terrific.

"He showed his worth for us.

"Although I didn't think he had loads to do, that's what top goalkeepers do. A couple of key moments and he produced...

"We owed him late on for that, but defensively, we are making blocks, we are putting our heads in the way, clearing the ball and letting the lads go forward and create, which they did on numerous occasions."

- WIRE SERVICES

OTHER RESULTS

  • Crystal Palace 1 Man United 2
  • West Brom 3 Swansea 1
  • Tottenham 3 Hull City 0
  • Man City 2 Watford 0
  • Stoke City 0 Southampton 0
  • Middlesbrough 0 Liverpool 3
  • West Ham 1 Burnley 0.
Antonio ConteCHELSEA (EPL)sunderland