Blues' strong response against champs cheers Conte

Chelsea's Eden Hazard about to score their second goal past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The comprehensive victory was just what Antonio Conte needed after recent speculation about his job security. As for the Foxes, their title defence ha
Chelsea's Eden Hazard about to score their second goal past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. The comprehensive victory was just what Antonio Conte needed after recent speculation about his job security. As for the Foxes, their title defence has started off worse than Chelsea's last season.PHOTO: REUTERS

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Chelsea 3 Leicester City 0

LONDON • Chelsea gave Antonio Conte a well-timed vote of confidence, as Diego Costa and Eden Hazard inspired a 3-0 win against spluttering champions Leicester City yesterday.

The manager had to endure speculation that he was in danger of being sacked just three months into his Chelsea reign after bookmakers suspended betting on his dismissal on Thursday.

While Conte laughed off the story, the Italian - under fire after disappointing defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal - is well aware of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich's ruthless nature when it comes to firing managers.

If there was any doubt in Abramovich's mind about Conte, this confident performance, which gave Chelsea a second successive Premier League victory, was a glimpse of the potential force the former Italy coach is trying to build.

EARLY PRESSURE

Good game from the start, I asked that we start well with intensity, to try to do what we're doing during training sessions.

ANTONIO CONTE, Chelsea manager, on their thumping win over Leicester.

Costa's seventh league goal of the campaign put Chelsea ahead and Hazard added the second before Victor Moses sealed the rout.

After the match, Conte praised his players for playing with intensity and putting in good effort.

"Good game from the start, I asked that we start well with intensity, to try to do what we're doing during training sessions," he said.

"I told (my players) before the game that we didn't like conceding goals. In midweek we tried a lot to change system, find a solution.

"And I'm very happy because I had a good reply from the players. I saw good commitment, I am pleased for the players."

Chelsea's Willian missed the match due to the death of his mother and Conte had a few compassionate words for his midfielder.

"I think Willian is a fantastic guy. He deserves this (win). Willian is family, I know it's very sad and we're also sad too," he said.

The last time Leicester walked out onto the Stamford Bridge pitch, they were given a guard of honour by Chelsea's players to mark the culmination of their astonishing title triumph. But Claudio Ranieri's side still seem to be suffering a hangover from those celebrations.

They have made a dismal defence of the title so far and are the first reigning English champions to lose their opening four away games since Blackburn in 1995-96.

Ranieri will regret his decision to rest Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani in the hope of keeping his players fresh for Tuesday's Champions League clash with FC Copenhagen.

The manager pinpointed a lack of concentration and their weakness in set pieces as key to the defeat.

"When you play Chelsea you have to have full attention. We conceded from a corner, again," he said.

When asked about his side's first-half performance when they conceded two goals, Ranieri added: "I forgot about it, Chelsea were so good."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 16, 2016, with the headline 'Blues' strong response against champs cheers Conte'. Print Edition | Subscribe