Pedro’s stunning goal helped Chelsea secure a 3-0 win over Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday which keeps the Blues’ Premier League title charge on track.
Despite a positive start from an in-form Everton side, neither the Toffees nor Chelsea could find the back of the net in the first half and, after a goalless first 45 minutes, Pedro opened the scoring in fine fashion with his stunning long-range effort.
The Spaniard was set up by Nemanja Matic and, after running into space just outside the area, he unleashed a powerful effort that hurtled into the net in the 66th minute.
Chelsea then doubled their advantage 13 minutes later when Eden Hazard’s corner was parried out by Maarten Stekelenburg but rebounded off Gary Cahill’s leg and into the net before Willian rounded off the win with a goal late on to secure a 3-0 victory for the leaders.
The result means Chelsea now lead second-placed Tottenham by seven points, although Spurs can cut that back down to four with a win over north London rivals Arsenal this afternoon.
The last time Chelsea and Everton met was back in November when the Blues, using a 3-4-3 for a month by that point, demolished the Toffees 5-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Such was the manner of Chelsea’s win that day that Ronald Koeman admitted Everton had “no chance” to take even a point from the match but insisted that his side had improved since.
Indeed, the stats certainly backed Koeman’s assertion up, with Everton coming into the clash with Chelsea off the back of eight straight home wins and sitting in seventh place in the table.
And their improved form since the humiliation of the 5-0 loss in west London showed early on when Dominic Calvert-Lewin made a fine run down the left and sent a cross into the box in only the second minute of the game.
His effort crashed off the near post and rebounded out into the path of Lukaku, who was prevented from making contact with the ball by Gary Cahill’s clearance who then went down the other end of the pitch and forced Stekelenburg into a save from his long-range shot two minutes later.
Everton looked the better of the two sides early on, but the hosts found themselves hanging on when Eden Hazard latched onto Diego Costa’s pass but, after rounding Stekelenburg, fired into the side netting before Nemanja Matic went on a fine solo run and unleashed a low effort that the Everton shot-stopper saved.
The chance triggered off a flurry of opportunities at goal – for both teams – as Lukaku first shrugged off David Luiz to send a low effort just wide of the post before the Chelsea defender released Diego Costa down the other end with his long-range pass that the Spain international could only volley over the bar.
The pace of the clash slowed down considerably thereafter though Lukaku continued to look sharp for the Toffees. The former Chelsea striker – who sits top of the league’s scoring charts with 24 goals – demonstrated once again why Conte wants to bring him back this summer when he chested a cross down but steered his effort wide under pressure from Cesar Azpilicueta.
With Everton holding Chelsea to a goalless first half, the visitors emerged from the break intent on finding the opener and they nearly did so in the 51st minute when Hazard sent a corner kick to Matic near the byline, who teed up Victor Moses only for the wing-back to fire wide.
Everton responded through Ross Barkley, who robbed N’Golo Kante of the ball in midfield but timed his pass to Lukaku late and allowed Chelsea to clear the ball moments before the Everton striker tested Thibaut Courtois with a low effort.
The pace of the game continued to move at a slow pace, but Pedro changed all that in the 66th minute when he latched onto Matic’s pass, rounded Phil Jagielka and unleashed a stunning strike that flew into the top left-hand corner of the net.
It was the goal Chelsea were looking for and before long, the visitors were 2-0 up when Hazard’s free kick forced Stekelenburg into a one-handed save. The ball fell to the incoming Cahill and, after hitting the defender’s leg, rebounded into the net.
With the game out of sight, Conte made several changes and they paid off when Cesc Fabregas combined with Costa to cut the ball back to Willian, who tapped in from close range to secure a 3-0 victory that keeps Chelsea on course for the Premier League title.