Chelsea romped home to a comfortable 3-0 victory over AFC Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge thanks to a brace from Pedro and a converted penalty from Eden Hazard.

Chelsea came into this match on the back of a narrow 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park. Eager to continue setting up the pace on top of the Premier League table, Antonio Conte’s side hosted a highly energetic Bournemouth, who have shown that they are no pushovers this season.

However, it was a largely comfortable evening for the Blues as they maintained a seven point lead ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Pedro broke the deadlock midway through the first half as he hit an incredible chipped goal over Artur Boruc after being found by Cesc Fabregas with a delicate pass.

Eden Hazard doubled the lead early on in the second half by converting from the spot after he was brought down in the box by Simon Francis’ late lunging tackle. The resounding win was capped off in the dying stages of the match as Pedro grabbed a second goal after his shot was deflected wickedly off Steve Cook to deny Boruc any chance of saving it.

The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at few of the more significant talking points to emerge out of the comfortable Chelsea win.

The Imperious Record Breakers

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (CL) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their second goal from teh penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (CL) celebrates with team-mates after scoring their second goal from teh penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s late September and Arsenal have just run through Chelsea 3-0 as the Gunners celebrate Arsene Wenger’s 20th anniversary as manager of the North London outfit. Antonio Conte’s side wore a dejected look then as they fell behind the title challengers and out of the European places.

Fast forward three months to late December, and Chelsea are now the undisputed leaders of the Premier League establishing themselves as the favourites to win the title come May. Nearest challengers Manchester City are seven points adrift, giving the Blues a sizeable advantage with 20 games left in the season.

Monday’s win was Chelsea’s twelfth in a row, which is a record in the club’s 111-year history, and it now puts them within touching distance of attaining a league record of 14 victories on the bounce, set by Arsenal in 2002.

With a visit of Stoke City to be followed by a trip to the White Hart Lane to face the misfiring Tottenham Hotspur, one wouldn’t put it past Chelsea to equal the record and eventually break it.

No Costa, No Problem For Chelsea

Chelsea's Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa stands by the dug out having been suspended for the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s Brazilian-born Spanish striker Diego Costa stands by the dug out having been suspended for the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

Conte was without the services of star striker and Premier League’s top scorer this season. Diego Costa was suspended for the match after picking up his fifth yellow card in the win over Crystal Palace last week.

On top of Costa’s absence, influential midfielder N’Golo Kante was unavailable due to suspension as well. This led the skeptics to opine that this would be the first test of Chelsea’s mettle, with a key figure missing for the first time this season, no less Costa who had directly contributed to 51% of his team’s goals so far.

However, after initially struggling to get in behind the Bournemouth defenders and break the stubborn resistance of Eddie Howe’s side, Chelsea finally grabbed a foothold in the match through Pedro’s opener.

That goal broke the shackles as the front trio of Pedro, Hazard and Willian retained a sharper, more decisive look on the ball, and created chances after chances from wave after wave of electric counterattacks to first double the lead and finally seal off the win deep into injury time in the second half.

Chelsea’s Very Own False Nine

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (L) celebrates scoring their second goal from teh penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (L) celebrates scoring their second goal from teh penalty spot during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Costa’s absence gave Conte the opportunity to hand a first league start of the season to summer signing Michy Batshuayi who had been restricted to cameo appearances off the bench thus far. However, the Belgian’s frustrations continued as the Chelsea boss chose to start his compatriot Eden Hazard in a false nine role instead.

Hazard, who lacked the hold up play abilities that Costa is renowned for, did look like a fish out of water in the initial stages of the first half. However, he soon started playing to his strengths, using his remarkable close control skills along with some silky touches on the ball while combining with Pedro and Willian to create a highly fluid front three, much like those of Arsenal and Liverpool.

Stats made for happy reading for Chelsea’s talisman as well, as he made 44 passes, completed a season-record 13 take-ons and created 4 chances for his teammates. And, he capped off a memorable performance with the goal from the penalty spot early on in the second half.

Pedro’s Resurgence

Chelsea's Spanish midfielder Pedro celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s Spanish midfielder Pedro celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

With Diego Costa missing from the starting lineup, Pedro was reinstated into the first team and the Spaniard took up the left forward role, a position that is usually occupied by Eden Hazard. Deployed in a supporting role to Hazard, Pedro stepped up and displayed all the qualities that made him such an important figure at Barcelona for seven years.

Incisive and quick on the ball, dependable and smart off it, Pedro impressed yet again with his work rate, intelligent movement and direct running, and grabbed a brace to round off what was one of his best performances in a Chelsea blue.

After a first season to forget at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho, it looks like the versatile Spanish forward is well and truly back to his best. The two goals on Monday meant that Pedro has now been directly involved in the same number of Premier League goals this season (9) as he managed all of last campaign.

After picking up his fifth booking of the season, he will be gutted to miss next week’s match against Stoke City. For now though, Pedro’s resurgence provides Conte with just the kind of versatility he needs for his system to thrive heading into the second half of the campaign.

Lack of quality in the final third the undoing for Bournemouth

Bournemouth's English manager Eddie Howe (L) shouts from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Bournemouth’s English manager Eddie Howe (L) shouts from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2016. (Photo by Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Eddie Howe set his side up with a three-man defence of his own, as Bournemouth switched to a 3-5-2 formation. The change in formation allowed Jack Wilshere much more freedom on the ball and enabled the Cherries to stand toe to toe with their hosts in the initial stages of the match.

Commanding equal possession on the ball, the Bournemouth midfielders supported Wilshere well who got into good positions and created a few half chances for his teammates. And despite Pedro’s opener, Howe’s side got close through Wilshere who forced Thibaut Courtois into making two saves.

However, after the break, Bournemouth were completely outplayed and much like the first half, Wilshere’s teammates failed to convert the Arsenal loanee’s incisive passes, which eventually proved to be the difference for the team, who were kept at arm’s length by Chelsea’s solid defence.

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