Belfast Telegraph

Sunderland 0 Chelsea 1: Conte piles praise stars as Blues clinch a perfect 10

By Martin Hardy

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte hailed the work-rate and professionalism of his players after they recorded their 10th successive victory to move six points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Cesc Fabregas' first goal of the campaign in just his third start was enough for victory at Sunderland, despite a dominant display from Conte's side.

Indeed, Chelsea needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to produce an excellent save three minutes into injury-time to cement their win.

Conte insisted it is too early to consider his side favourites to reclaim the title they won in 2015 under Jose Mourinho, but he did heap praise on a squad he took over in the summer.

"Yeah, I'm pleased for sure," he said. "It's fantastic to win 10 games in a row in this league.

"This league's very tough, in every game. You have to fight until the end to take three points.

"I'm pleased for the players because they deserve this for their commitment, and work-rate in every game.

"I prefer not to look at the table. I prefer this. For my players we are doing something important and the league didn't finish today.

"We are on top of the table but there is still three games to end the first part of the season. Until the end it will be a big battle between six teams.

"I think we created many chances to score the second goal to kill the game. Instead, we didn't take it.

"At the end Sunderland had a good chance to draw. It was a great save from Thibaut to seal the win.

"Now, for sure, we have to continue. On Saturday we will have another tough game with Crystal Palace. We want to arrive at Christmas in an incredible position in the table."

Goalscorer Fabregas added: "It's a strong position. We want to keep winning. We know in this period of the year a lot can be said. We can send a strong message and hopefully we can continue like this. The performance was really good. We felt we were really strong."

Sunderland remain bottom of the table and their manager David Moyes said: "Their goalkeeper made two great saves. I thought the last one was in.

"It would have been ideal because there wouldn't have been any time left. It was a really good save."

Moyes also admitted he had expected to have funds to spend in January, something Martin Bain, the club's chief executive, has revealed will not happen.

"Yeah, it's frustrating there aren't funds in January," he added.

"I knew I wouldn't do much business in the summer. I did expect to be able to do some business in January. No. The understanding I have been told is I won't."

Fabregas has now scored more goals at the Stadium of Light (four) than he has at any other away ground in the Premier League. Both sides do not have long to wait for their next game as Sunderland welcome Watford to the Stadium of Light on Saturday while Chelsea visit Crystal Palace on the same day.

Sunderland: Pickford, Koné, O’Shea, Djilobodji, Jones (Love 59), Denayer, Kirchhoff (Larsson 57), Van Aanholt, Januzaj, Defoe, Borini (Khazri 82). Subs not used: Mannone, Asoro, Maja, Honeyman.

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses (Ivanovic 90), Kanté, Fàbregas, Alonso, Willian (Chalobah 89), Costa, Pedro (Matic 76). Goals: Fabregas 39. Subs not used: Begovic, Zouma, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi.

Man of the match: Fabregas

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Neil Swarbrick

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