LONDON, April 26: Chelsea took another step closer to the Premier League title with a 4-2 win over a spirited Southampton side at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
Diego Costa ended a seven-game goal drought with a brace while Eden Hazard and Gary Cahill too found the back of the net to open up a seven-point lead in the Premier League. Blues old boys Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand netted against their former club but it was all in vain for Claude Puel�s side.
The second-half double halted a barren run that began shortly after a reported dispute at the club as Costa was linked with a move to the financially-flush Chinese Super League.
Even as the goals dried up and the uncertainty about Costa�s future persisted, manager Antonio Conte never doubted his striker�s ability to make an impact in the title run-in.
�For the forward it�s very important to score... because the goal is your life,� Conte said. �But for me I always said that I�m very pleased for his commitment, for his work for the team, because he�s always working for the team.�
It took Chelsea barely five minutes to open the scoring as Diego Costa was given space in box to find Hazard, who fired past Fraser Forster.
The goal was the Belgian�s 15th in the league this season � the first time he has managed that feat.
He managed 14 in both 2013-14 and 2014-15 but this is now his most prolific season since he scored 20 Ligue 1 goals for Lille in 2011-12.
After Gary Cahill restored Chelsea�s lead, Costa scored two contrasting goals in the second half.
The striker�s 50th Premier League goal was a header from Cesc Fabregas� cross and his next goal was the culmination of a mazy run through the defence that saw him exchange passes with Hazard and Pedro Rodriguez.
Those goals helped the league leaders nudge closer to regaining the trophy from Leicester, having had their advantage trimmed in recent weeks by Tottenham. Second-placed Tottenham is now on the back foot as it prepares to play Crystal Palace late on Wednesday.
But one potential obstacle to Chelsea�s winning the title on the five-match final stretch remains the leaky defence that had been so sturdy earlier in the season. Both Southampton goals came from former Chelsea players, with Oriol Romeu and Ryan Bertrand making it 12 league games since Conte�s side kept a clean sheet.
Romeu�s cancelled out Hazard�s opener. Manolo Gabbiadini was left unmarked to bring down James Ward-Prowse�s corner at the far post and strike at Thibaut Courtois. The goalkeeper parried the shot but the ball fell to Romeu for a simple tap-in. Chelsea was already 4-1 in front when Bertrand rose above Cahill to head in a cross from Cedric Soares. �When you keep a clean sheet, it�s a great achievement for your team. I think this situation we have to improve. We have to continue to work and try to improve our mistakes,� Conte said. � Agencies