Eden Hazard outwits Manchester City to strengthen Chelsea’s title grip

It was Antonio Conte, as much as a nervous Chelsea support, who best betrayed the sense of anxiety which gripped here. The Italian spent most of the second half a frenzy of livid agitation on the edge of his technical area, frantically waving to his players and barking instructions or imploring the beleaguered fourth official, Bobby Madley, to offer plausible explanations for every tight decision. He is emotional at the best of times on the touchline, of course, but all his mannerisms were particularly exaggerated as time ebbed agonisingly from this contest.

He had stared in disbelief as John Stones went unnoticed just inside the six-yard box as Manchester City’s last corner of the contest veered into the penalty area, then puffed out his cheeks in relief as the centre-half’s awkward volley from in front of goal flew harmlessly over the bar. His own cheers were drowned amid the din at the final whistle seconds later. This victory squeezed the last breath of life from City’s vague challenge but, critically for Chelsea, also kept Tottenham Hotspur an arm’s length away. Spurs could mount their late rally in distant south Wales, but the seven-point lead is maintained. Everything about this win felt significant.

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Football | The Guardian

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