LONDON (REUTERS) – Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hailed the 5-0 destruction of Everton as “fantastic” as the Blues went top of the Premier League on Saturday with a stunning display that suggests they are serious contenders to regain their title.
Since losing to Liverpool and Arsenal in successive games in September, results that called Conte’s job into question, the 2015 champions have scored 16 goals without reply in winning five consecutive league games.
But it was the manner of Saturday’s victory against a team with top-four aspirations that particularly pleased Conte, whose front three of Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Pedro showed they are as dangerous as any in the league. “My players played good football with good intensity. It was fantastic. It is a pity we have to stop for the international break,” he said.
The Italian was reluctant to single out individuals in a true team effort but when asked about Hazard, who scored twice in a man-of-the-match performance, he said the resurgent Belgian had done everything asked of him.
“Eden Hazard played an impressive game,” he said. “We all know he is a talented player. I see he is working a lot for the team and his teammates are very happy for this. He must continue, he is showing his talent in every game.
“It is important for confidence to be top of the league. We have to continue as Everton is now in the past.”
Conte was also delighted with the performance of Marcos Alonso, who posted his first goal for Chelsea since his 23 million-pound ($28.8 million) move from Fiorentina. “It wasn’t easy for Marcos Alonso to arrive in England, change leagues, so I am very happy for him. It is fantastic to be top of the league.”
Hazard hailed the win as “unbelievable”. “We scored five beautiful goals and could have scored more. I am enjoying my football, we are playing well, we are creating a lot of chances and scoring a lot of goals,” he said.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman, whose side had only ever previously lost by a single goal this season, was honest in his assessment of the game. “It didn’t matter what system we played. Chelsea showed us how to press and play. The difference was too big between Chelsea and Everton,” he said.