Leaders Chelsea kicked off a hectic holiday programme in the Premier League with a dominant 2-0 victory over high-flying London rivals West Ham United on Friday.
A John Terry tap-in and Diego Costa’s drilled shot sealed the points for Jose Mourinho’s side although the scoreline disguised a gulf in quality between the two sides who were separated by only three places in the table.
West Ham ground out a 0-0 draw in the corresponding fixture last year when Mourinho accused them of playing 19th Century football but once Terry had scored after 31 minutes they offered little and could have lost by a bigger margin.
Chelsea moved to 45 points from 18 games, six more than champions Manchester city who play against West Bromwich Albion later.
“We are playing well and obviously playing before the other teams it was a chance for us to go six points clear,” he told Sky Sports. “The pressure is on them now.
“We are playing great, everyone can see that, and if we continue to do that it’s going to be tough.
“It’s important we remain calm and keep doing what we are doing. I see a real hunger in this side.”
The first half hour was one-way traffic and the only surprise was that Chelsea did not score before Terry turned the ball over the line after Costa flicked on a Cesc Fabregas corner. It was Terry’s second goal in successive league games.
Costa, whose goal tally had slowed in recent weeks after an explosive start to his Chelsea career, showed his pedigree when he received a pass from Eden Hazard just past the hour mark and lashed a left-foot shot past goalkeeper Adrian.
With Willian and Nemanja Matic dominating the midfield and Hazard a constant menace, Chelsea had numerous other chances to score with West Ham’s only flurry coming near the end when substitute Morgan Amalfitano dinked an effort against the post.
“We deserved it, we played a very good game against a very difficult opponent,” Mourinho, who has never lost a home London derby in two spells as Chelsea boss, said.
“When we scored we had the game under control.”
Third-placed Manchester United host Newcastle United later while Southampton could climb above West Ham into the top four if they win at Crystal Palace.