LEICESTER, England (AP) - Chelsea easily coped without top-scorer Diego Costa, sweeping aside fading champion Leicester 3-0 to go seven points clear in the English Premier League on Saturday.
Marcos Alonso scored twice and Pedro Rodriguez headed in the third as Chelsea put its title bid back on track after a 13-match winning run ended at Tottenham in the previous game.
“It was a very professional, solid performance by us on the back of the Spurs game,” Chelsea defender Gary Cahill said. “We had to prove it. It’s all about bouncing back.”
Whether Costa returns to the Chelsea team is unclear, with the striker linked with a move to China but officially out of the game due to a back injury.
“He wasn’t there today and we managed to put Pedro, Hazard and Willian up there so you try to defend against those three boys - it’s very difficult,” Cahill said. “We are blessed to have talent like that, and if someone is missing someone comes in and produces a performance like that.”
Chelsea’s early opener came from an unlikely source in the sixth minute. Cesar Azpilicueta’s delicious cross caused chaos in the Leicester defense before it fell to Hazard to tee up the unmarked Alonso to hammer in from six yards.
There was little reaction from Leicester as Chelsea threatened a procession. Leicester completed just 15 passes inside the opening 15 minutes.
The rotation of Chelsea’s front three Hazard, Willian and Pedro, caused Leicester issues. Willian was particularly impressive, and any threats were batted away by Cahill and David Luiz as the subdued host looked short of ideas.
Without Riyad Mahrez, on African Cup of Nations duty with Algeria, Leicester lacked its main supply line to Jamie Vardy and Musa.
The only real alarm for Chelsea came when Courtois palmed away Vardy’s low cross but the visitors always held a degree of control.
A second goal arrived six minutes into the second half. Willian was fouled by Christian Fuchs and his right-wing free kick was only half cleared to Alonso. The left-back’s low 18-yard drive hit Wes Morgan to squirm past goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Chelsea went hunting for more as Cahill’s overhead kick was blocked before Alonso was inches away from a shock hat trick when his ambitious first-time volley dropped wide.
But Pedro wrapped up the points in the 71st as Chelsea underlined its superiority and the gulf between the two sides. His flick found Willian and, when the midfielder’s cross looped off Schmeichel, Pedro rose to nod into an empty net.
Chelsea’s last visit to King Power Stadium in November 2015 ended in a 2-1 loss that led to Jose Mourinho’s firing and helped Leicester win the title. Fast forward 13 months and Chelsea inflicted Leicester’s 10th loss of the season to leave Claudio Ranieri’s team only five points above the relegation zone.
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