Diego Costa’s strike in the 41st minute was all Chelsea needed to return to the top of the table, as they beat Middlesbrough to earn the maximum three points.
The victory was Chelsea’s sixth successive Premier League victory. And Costa also netted a record of his own, becoming the first player to amass double digit goals–10 in all, this season.
Middlesbrough played their part in an action-packed encounter at a sold-out Riverside Stadium, but Costa’s 10th goal of the season put Chelsea top of the league.
After Boro goalkeeper Victor Valdes superbly tipped over Pedro’s rising strike, Costa reacted quickest to prod the ball into the net when his header from an Eden Hazard corner was blocked.
The fast pace continued after the break, with Pedro rattling the crossbar before Victor Moses blasted over following a rapid Chelsea counter-attack.
Thibaut Courtois saved well after Alvaro Negredo’s brilliant control and strike late on for Boro, who are in 15th place on 11 points.
With Chelsea now having 28 points after 12 matches and tailed by Liverpool,27, Manchester City 27 and Arsenal 25, pundits are of the view that this year’s Premier League title race could be the greatest of all time.
Chelsea Coach Antonio Conte knew how gritty the race would be as he revealed that he told his boys to start well after the international break.
“I am very proud but we must know we have to continue in this way.
“I told the players we must start well after the international break and I think we had the right concentration to win a tough game.
“I knew this game would be difficult because this team is well organised and they are in good form. But we deserved to win because we scored the goal and created many chances for a second goal.
“The first five minutes wasn’t good for us. Middlesbrough started very well and we started badly but during the game our possession got better and we started to move the ball quicker. Also we didn’t concede and stopped any opportunity for them to score.
“The league doesn’t finish today but it’s the first time we have lead this season.
“It’s not going to be easy but we must be happy for our hard work and commitment. Now I will tell our team we have work to do.”
Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka lamented the loss when he spoke with Sky Sport:
“I am really pleased with the attitude of my players. We knew it was going to be hard but we are in the Premier League and one mistake gets you punished.
“Diego Costa is one of the top scorers in the world. Before the game I said to my players you can’t lose him for one second and they lost him.
“I am not worried about the look of the league table at the moment because all I am concerned about is the performances. If the performances were bad I would worry but if the performances are good then we will start to win games.