Wed, May 10, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Chelsea edge toward title with 3-0 victory over Boro

Reuters, LONDON

Chelsea’s Diego Costa, left, scores a goal past Middlesbrough’s Brad Guzan in their Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London on Monday.

Photo: Reuters

Chelsea were on Monday heading for a comfortable 3-0 victory over an increasingly despondent Middlesbrough side facing relegation, but manager Antonio Conte could still not sit down and enjoy the moment at Stamford Bridge.

He skipped and paced the touchline, gesticulating wildly to his players, yelling instructions and talking urgently to his bench. The Italian applauded the crowd, turned to each stand, and finally cracked a smile as the fans sang his name.

The goals prompted his usual animated celebrations and the final whistle, with Chelsea three points away from the Premier League title, was the signal for hugs and backslaps all round.

Conte is as demonstrative and emotional on the pitch as he is measured and softly spoken off it, although he did admit that in this match he felt “a little bit more relaxed.”

“To my players, my message is now that we need to do another step... On Friday we have a good chance to finish — it won’t be easy, but for sure we’re close to a fantastic achievement,” he said, looking toward the next match at West Browmich Albion.

Chelsea would clinch the Premier League if they win at the Hawthorns. Their nearest rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, can only watch and hope after they dropped points in a defeat at West Ham United on Friday last week and do not play again until Sunday.

Conte, whose side have led the table since November last year in his first season in charge, has been counting down the points, repeating each week like a mantra the number needed to get over the line.

Tottenham have been breathing down Chelsea’s necks.

“Our worst moment was after the [Manchester] United defeat [last month], because Tottenham were winning. To see your opponent only four points behind was very hard,” he said. “In that moment, my players showed me great commitment to overcome this moment and to try to win the league.”

Commitment and hard work are buzzwords for 47-year-old Conte, but he urged his players to enjoy their moment.

“It’s great to breathe this atmosphere at Stamford Bridge,” he said. “It’s great for me, for my players, for the club to see this great atmosphere.”

LA LIGA

Reuters, BARCELONA, Spain

Tiny CD Leganes on Monday moved to the brink of safety in their first season in La Liga by thrashing Real Betis Balompie 4-0, helped by a sensational goal from 50m by Brazilian Gabriel Pires.

Leganes captain Alexander Szymanowski put the minnows from Madrid ahead in the seventh minute with a penalty before Nabil El Zhar cemented their lead against struggling Betis by pouncing on a fortuitous bounce to score in the 15th.

Pires had most of the 11,000-capacity Butarque crowd on their feet with his enterprising strike in the 65th, winning possession near the halfway line and lobbing stranded Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan to score.

Argentine Szymanowski then delighted the home fans with an impressive run across the box to slam in the fourth with 10 minutes left, putting an extra shine on a win that took Leganes up to 16th in the table on 33 points, four behind Betis in 15th.

The win restored Leganes’ six-point lead over Real Sporting de Gijon, who occupy the final relegation spot, with two games remaining, meaning a point against Athletic Bilbao or Deportivo Alaves would guarantee their top-flight status, while they would also stay up if Sporting fail to win their last two games.

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