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Everton 0-3 Chelsea

Pedro has been involved in four of Chelsea’s eight goals against Everton in the league this season

Premier League leaders Chelsea took a big step towards clinching the title as three second-half goals overcame Everton at Goodison Park.

Pedro’s 25-yard stunner, Gary Cahill’s close-range finish and Willian’s tap-in moved Antonio Conte’s side seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham, who face Arsenal later on Sunday.

It means the Blues could drop three points in their remaining four games and still claim a second title in three years, even if Spurs win all of their remaining fixtures.

Chelsea had to be patient, with Pedro’s left-footed, long-range strike not coming until the 66th minute.

Cahill sealed the win when Maarten Stekelenburg parried Eden Hazard’s free-kick onto the onrushing defender, before Willian slotted home from Cesc Fabregas’ cutback.

Everton had started brightly in a game that opened at breakneck speed, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin going closest to scoring when he struck the post from a tight angle.

Manchester City’s draw at Middlesbrough means Ronald Koeman’s side, in seventh, are eight points adrift of the top four with three games left.

The day the title was won?

This may have been Tottenham’s strongest hope of Chelsea surrendering points in their run-in, with Everton placed higher than any of their four remaining opponents, and three home games on the horizon for the Blues.

It could prove to be the killer blow to Spurs’ spirited challenge, and seems to answer the question of whether Chelsea can handle the growing pressure applied by their London rivals’ eight-game winning run in the league.

The maths are simple for Chelsea – win three more games and they will be Premier League champions for the sixth time.

And the celebrations from Conte and his players at the final whistle suggested the Blues feel they can get over the line in games against Middlesbrough, West Brom, Watford and Sunderland.

Add an FA Cup final win against Arsenal on 27 May and Conte would have had a remarkable first season in English football.

An opportunity missed for Everton

Chelsea’s hosts were lacking in creativity, but provided a stubborn and organised test that required the Blues to call on persistence and perseverance – attributes any title-winning side must have.

Results on Saturday mean Everton will not finish lower than seventh this season, securing a best finish in three years and a spot in next season’s Europa League.

But Koeman’s men faced the league leaders with an outside chance of still creeping into the top four and sneaking a Champions League spot.

It will therefore be even more frustrating that they failed to make inroads against Chelsea and capitalise on Manchester City dropping two points.

Calvert-Lewin’s strike against the woodwork aside, there was little guile from the Toffees.

And any chance they had of getting back into the game was squandered by clumsy defending for Chelsea’s second goal, with Idrissa Gueye weak in the wall and Stekelenburg failing to get a stronger hand to the cross.

Costa edges battle of the strikers

The game featured two of the Premier League’s most prized poachers, with Everton’s Romelu Lukaku and Chelsea’s Diego Costa having scored 43 times between them this season.

Asked this week which of the two he would prefer in his side, Chelsea boss Conte unsurprisingly backed his man, claiming 28-year-old Costa was the best striker in the world.

The Spain international may be five goals shy of Lukaku’s 24 in the league, but the weight of the Blues forward’s goals have been far more hefty – Chelsea would be 15 points worse off this season without his tally of 19.

So there was understandable concern from the bench when Costa stayed down holding his leg in the first half after a strong, but fair, tackle from Tom Davies.

He was fine to continue and, while he was not presented with a host of chances, the former Atletico Madrid man was a consistent influence, being shown a yellow card for a tackle on Stekelenburg after tireless closing down and being involved in the build-up to the final goal.

Lukaku, who continues to be linked with a return to Chelsea – whom he left in 2014 for a £28m fee, was an energetic nuisance for the visiting defence but, aside from fizzing wide from 20 yards, looked unlikely to score for the first time in six appearances against his former club.

More to follow.

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