Costa ends goal drought to help Chelsea open up seven-point lead

Diego Costa ended a seven-game goal drought in style to help Chelsea open up a seven-point lead in the Premier League with a 4-2 victory over Southampton.

Published: 26th April 2017 04:23 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th April 2017 04:23 AM   |  A+A-

Chelsea's Diego Costa, right, scores a goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Tuesday, April 25, 2017. | AP

By Associated Press

LONDON: Diego Costa ended a seven-game goal drought in style to help Chelsea open up a seven-point lead in the Premier League with a 4-2 victory over Southampton on Tuesday.

After setting up Eden Hazard's fifth-minute opener at Stamford Bridge, Costa netted two contrasting goals in the second half. The striker's 50th Premier League goal was a header from Cesc Fabregas' cross and the second was the culmination of a mazy run through the defense that saw him exchange passes with Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez.

Gary Cahill also headed in Chelsea's second in first-half stoppage time as the leaders nudged closer to regaining the trophy from Leicester after seeing its advantage trimmed in recent weeks by Tottenham. Second-place Tottenham is now on the back foot as it prepares to play Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

But one potential obstacle to Chelsea's winning the title on the five-match final stretch remains the leaky defense that had been so sturdy earlier in the season. Both Southampton goals came from former Chelsea players, with Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand making it 12 league games since Antonio Conte's side kept a clean sheet.

Romeu's canceled out Hazard's opener. Manolo Gabbiadini was left unmarked to bring down James Ward-Prowse's corner at the far post and strike at Thibaut Courtois. The goalkeeper parried the shot but the ball fell to Romeu for a simple tap-in. Chelsea was already 4-1 in front when Bertrand rose above Cahill to head in a cross from Cedric Soares.

The west London club seemed so relaxed about its advantage that captain John Terry had been brought on for his first league appearance since November and first since announcing he would be leaving at the end of the season.

It's likely that one of Terry's last acts of a 22-year association with Chelsea will be to lift the Premier League trophy. There could also be an FA Cup to collect if Arsenal can be overcome in the final. Conte gambled against Tottenham in Saturday's semifinal by starting without Costa and Hazard. It paid off at Wembley and the effects were felt by Southampton as the refreshed duo unsettled the Southampton defense.

"My choices were right for the game against Tottenham and the game against Southampton," Conte said. "It's not easy to make these strong choices. I have squad full of great men and good players."

The contribution of Fabregas shouldn't be overlooked. It was the midfielder's long defense-splitting pass that was cutback to Costa into the path of Hazard for the opener. The former Arsenal playmaker also whipped in the cross eight minutes into the second half that was nodded in by Costa. It was Fabregas' 103rd Premier League assist, overtaking former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard in a ranking that is topped by retired Manchester United great Ryan Giggs on 162.



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