Middlesbrough vs Chelsea live: Diego Costa goal sends Blues to the top of the Premier League

Chelsea moved to the top of the table after a sixth straight league success without conceding and a seventh consecutive win over Middlesbrough, the division’s topscorer Diego Costa with the only goal.

The striker converted from close range minutes before the interval, benefitting from some static defending as our hosts failed to deal with a corner.

We passed up other opportunities to extend our lead. Pedro in particular was unfortunate not to find his name on the scoresheet, denied by some great keeping and the woodwork.  

Boro were resolute as expected but our defence gave little away once more, Thibaut Courtois tested on just a solitary occasion a quarter-of-an-hour from time.

After another impressive victory the preparations for Tottenham’s visit next weekend can now begin.

With Conte’s team selection came a little slice of history: it was the first time Chelsea have named the same starting XI for five consecutive league games in the Premier League era.

There was a change on the bench though with Cesc Fabregas fit and available again after injury.

Boro started the better and were the first to threaten. Gaston Ramirez broke clear of our lines down the left, but thankfully his sideways pass was played a little behind the unmarked Marten De Roon. When the ball then fell to Alvaro Negredo, he cross-shot into the six-yard box and the danger passed.

Eden Hazard, playing his 150th Premier League game, was scythed down on 8 minutes by Adam Clayton, who was booked. The Belgian instigated our first clear chance, teasing a pass to the well-placed Moses. He thrashed his effort wide of the goal but not far beyond the reach of three Blues, either.

By the midway point of the half, our passing was crisper enabling a greater control of possession than earlier on, but it was clear Boro’s backline would be a tough nut to crack.

We almost managed to do just that on 28 minutes, with Hazard and Moses again linking up to good effect. The latter’s cutback to Pedro was perfect, and it looked for all the world like the Spaniard would accept the invitation, but his former Barcelona teammate Victor Valdes superbly denied him with an outstretched hand tipping his fierce strike over the bar.

At the other end, with their first meaningful attack for quite a while, Negredo headed a deep cross wide, not helped by Ramirez’s presence close by. Marcos Alonso then tested Valdes after Pedro’s shot was blocked, but the keeper, who took a knock to the head from his teammate Fabio making the save, was helpless to prevent our opener a couple of minutes later.

Hazard swung a corner over, the ball looped upwards after an aerial contest, and Diego Costa was the man alive to the situation, spotting the ball’s trajectory before defence and keeper. It still needed finishing and his left-footed volley was cutely angled past Valdes.

So goal number 10 of the season for the Premier League’s top scorer and the ideal boost before half-time.

It was nearly the same story in the opening 20 seconds of the second period when Moses’s cross was worked to the ever-dangerous Alonso on the other side of the pitch. Valdes got down low to deny his compatriot.

Another Spaniard, Cesar Azpilicueta, was booked for a foul on Ramirez whose subsequent free-kick hit the Chelsea wall.

Pedro couldn’t have come any closer to doubling our lead when Diego Costa chested a brilliant David Luiz cross into his path, curling his left-footed shot against the underside of the bar. Then Moses could have made it two but shot over, Diego Costa again the provider having led a thrilling counter.

A misplaced Kante pass gave Traore a decent sight of goal on the edge of the box. He picked out row Z but did better carrying the ball from deep soon after, finding Negredo whose acrobatic volley called Courtois into action for the first time.

Conte responded with our maiden change, former Boro loanee Nathaniel Chalobah replacing Pedro on 80 minutes. His opposite number Aitor Karanka had earlier made a couple of attacking substitutions.

Boro saw most of the ball from then on in, but in truth there were few scares of note, including during four minutes of stoppage time, as our rearguard held firm for the sixth Premier League game in a row. That winning feeling continues.

Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses (Ivanovic 89), Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro (Chalobah 80), Diego Costa, Hazard (Oscar 90+2).

Unused subs Begovic, Terry, Fabregas, Batshuayi.

Scorer Diego Costa 41

Booked Azpilicueta 51, David Luiz 65, Kante 73

Middlesbrough (4-5-1): Valdes; Barragan, Chambers, Gibson (c), Fabio (Downing 71); Traore, Forshaw (Leadbitter 89), Clayton (Fischer 73), De Roon, Ramirez; Negredo.

Unused subs Guzan, Espinosa, Fischer, Nsue, Rhodes.

Booked Clayton 8, Chambers 74

Referee Jon Moss

Crowd 32,704

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