Demonstrating their efficient transformation under Antonio Conte, Chelsea's players reeled off an 11th successive victory in a Premier League season for the first time Saturday.
LONDON (AP) — Demonstrating their efficient transformation under Antonio Conte, Chelsea's players reeled off an 11th successive victory in a Premier League season for the first time Saturday.
Diego Costa's header secured a 1-0 win at struggling Crystal Palace, sending the leaders nine points clear of Liverpool and Arsenal.
It came on the first anniversary of Jose Mourinho being fired with the west London club a point above the relegation zone. Apparent harmony in the dressing room has replaced the "palpable discord" with the players which triggered Mourinho's exit.
Although the wins are racking up, Chelsea might soon pay for its inability to kill off games with the Palace success completing a hat trick of 1-0 victories.
The defense, though, is watertight under Conte, keeping nine clean sheets in the winning run that started after a 3-0 humbling at Arsenal and the switch to a three-man defense.
"The manager must be a tailor and try and find the right fit for the team," said Conte, the former Italy and Juventus coach. "For sure, for me, it wasn't easy to arrive and understand very quickly the characteristics of my players. I needed a bit of time.
"I tried a different solution before changing the formation, but I think the most important thing is the mentality, our strong mentality. Also hard work during the week — tactical work, physical work, analysis."
With mist descending on the Selhurst Park field, the only goal in the lunchtime kickoff came from Chelsea's first attempt on target in the 43rd minute.
Costa rose above Scott Dann to meet Cesar Azpilicueta's cross and net his 13th goal of the season. The Spain forward has eclipsed last season's haul for Chelsea before the halfway point has been reached.
"If we'd arrived here today without the right concentration and focus, the will to fight and go into battle with your opponents, we'd have lost this game for sure," Conte said. "Instead, we have great quality but the players are putting that quality into the team."
Chelsea, though, will have to cope without Costa at home to Bournemouth on Dec. 26. Chelsea's top-scorer picked up a fifth booking of the season for a tackle on Joe Ledley before scoring.
Midfielder N'Golo Kante, who also accumulated five yellow cards with his second-half caution, also has two weeks off before the New Year's Eve game against Stoke.
Palace manager Alan Pardew might also have an enforced break — unless results improve. Chelsea condemned Palace to an eighth loss in 10 games to leave the south London club three points above the relegation zone.
"Chelsea are very sound defensively and didn't really give us any chance to get at them as much as we'd have liked," Pardew said. "They were confident in their defending, (with) good shape and discipline to their actions, and did enough offensively to edge it."
Chelsea equaled the 2009 team's 11-match winning run set across two seasons in 2009.
Arsenal's 14-match winning run in 2002 remains a Premier League record — for now.
Manchester United 2, West Brom 0
WEST BROMWICH, England (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic was Manchester United's match-winner for the second time in three days, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The 35-year-old Ibrahimovic, a free signing in the offseason, is looking ageless with 10 goals in nine games in all competitions.
Jose Mourinho's side remains sixth in the English Premier League after a third successive win, 13 points behind leader Chelsea where the manager was fired exactly a year ago.
United opened up West Brom after five minutes with just two passes, resulting in Ibrahimovic's opener. Antonio Valencia sent Jesse Lingard clear on the right and his first-time cross found the on-rushing Ibrahimovic to head past goalkeeper Ben Foster from six yards (meters).
Ibrahimovic, who also scored United's winner at Crystal Palace on Wednesday, could have been sent off in the first half when he clattered into Craig Dawson, leading with his shoulder.
Ibrahimovic stayed on the field and grabbed a second in the 56th when his low drive deflected off Dawson.
Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney's wait for his 249th United goal, which would draw him level with Bobby Charlton's club record, continues. Rooney was denied by Foster in the first half when the goalkeeper turned his rising half-volley onto the crossbar as Charlton watched from the stands.
Rooney just has two goals in his last 24 games for United and England.
Swansea 3, Middlesbrough 0
MIDDLESBROUGH, England (AP) — Swansea stayed in the
The Welsh side has conceded 11 goals in its last three away league games — scoring only once — and is three points from safety.
"When I came here I knew what I was getting into and I'm not backing down from it now," Bradley said. "That's the challenge — when the team has put itself in a tough spot everybody has got to stick together during the toughest times and fight the fight.
"I put pressure on myself to see if we can make the team stronger and fight for points every week, and I will continue to do that."
Negredo's early brace and a 58th-minute effort from
Bradley's men were second best throughout, giving Negredo space in the box to swing home an 18th-minute opener before
The visitors got the third they deserved just before the hour mark when Marten de Roon converted a cross from Negredo.
"It's the same story," said Bradley, the former U.S. coach hired by Swansea in October. "We started OK, we felt the energy and confidence but on their first real look at goal we went down.
"We talked about our ability to hold things together, but their second goal came after a strange mix-up over whose throw it was, the next thing it's a penalty and we've put ourselves in a big hole."
Middlesbrough moved up three spots to 14th, with six more points than Swansea, which dropped a place to 19th out of 20.
"For the first time today we didn't take care of business against a team that is right around us in the table," Bradley said. "Now we've got to look at our next two home matches (against West Ham and Bournemouth) because winning home matches in this battle is going to be the real key."
Leicester 2, Stoke 2
STOKE, England (AP) — Struggling champion Leicester conceded twice after Jamie Vardy was sent off before staging a late comeback to draw 2-2 at Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday.
Vardy saw red in the 28th minute for a tackle on Mame Diouf. Danny Simpson's hand ball then gave Stoke a penalty that Bojan Krkic converted, and Joe Allen sent the hosts into a two-goal lead at halftime.
However, Claudio Ranieri's side dug deep, with Leonardo Ulloa beginning the recovery in the 74th and Daniel Amartey equalizing in the 88th to give Leicester only its second point on the road in its weak title defense.
West Ham 1, Hull 0
LONDON (AP) — West Ham has five English Premier League victories all with 1-0 scorelines after edging Hull on Saturday.
Mark Noble, who clinched Wednesday's win over Burnley, netted from the penalty spot at the Olympic Stadium as Hull slipped to the bottom of the standings.
West Ham was abject against a Hull side that hasn't scored on the road in more than eight hours but did enough to climb five points clear of the relegation zone.
West Ham earned its penalty with 15 minutes to go when Michail Antonio was brought down by Tom Huddleston.
Noble missed his spot kick against Burnley, only to put in the rebound, but he made no mistake this time.
Sunderland 1, Watford 0
SUNDERLAND, England (AP) — Sunderland moved off the bottom of the English Premier League after beating Watford 1-0 on Saturday.
Patrick van Aanholt scored four minutes into the second half, and Sunderland earned its fourth league win in seven games.
A poor and quiet first half by Sunderland was instantly forgotten after halftime when Adnan Januzaj fed Jermain Defoe on the run, and the striker crossed to Van Aanholt, who shrugged off Watford defender Christian Kabasele and tucked the ball in off the far post.
Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo were constantly threatening for Watford, especially in the first half, but the visitors fell to a fourth defeat in five games.