Manager Antonio Conte defended his remarks that Chelsea are out of the title race after his side bounced back from defeat against struggling West Ham to comfortably win away to Huddersfield Town.
The Blues were criticised after losing to the Hammers on Saturday, a result which led Conte to concede the 2016-17 champions could not win the Premier League.
However, they moved level on points with second-placed Manchester United after goals by Tiemoue Bakayoko, Willian and Pedro ensured Huddersfield lost for the fifth time in six games.
Chelsea are still 11 points behind leaders Manchester City, a gap the Italian still believes is too large to bridge.
“You must be realistic. I prefer to tell the truth rather than a good lie,” said Conte after Tuesday’s game.
“Sometimes I can be too honest but I like to speak honestly with my players and our fans. It doesn’t mean we don’t want to try to catch them.
“Our path is a great path but for sure there is a team that is in this way. It is very hard, now, to stop them.”
France midfielder Bakayoko, substituted at half-time in the surprise defeat to West Ham on Saturday, set Antonio Conte’s side on their way by clipping the ball beyond Jonas Lossl after the Huddersfield keeper had slipped in the wet conditions making a clearance.
Brazil midfielder Willian doubled the lead before the interval with a header before teeing-up Pedro to hammer the third goal.
Substitute Laurent Depoitre headed a late consolation but Huddersfield were well beaten.
“It could have been a really horrible night after the third, but our players reacted and got the goal at the end,” said Terriers boss David Wagner.
- Relive the action from the John Smith’s Stadium
No fatigue as Blues bounce back
In the past two weeks Conte has claimed there was a fixture conspiracy against his team while, on the eve of Chelsea’s 25th league and cup game, the Italian complained of fatigue being Chelsea’s biggest enemy.
Yet if the Blues are feeling tired juggling domestic and European commitments, they did not show it in west Yorkshire.
Chelsea dominated from start to finish and scored all three goals in the first 50 minutes.
The visitors arrived in Huddersfield having endured a difficult week – defeat at West Ham coming after failure to finish top of their Champions League group left them a tough last-16 tie with Barcelona to negotiate.
The return of Willian, one of four changes made by Conte, was key with the former Shakhtar Donetsk player involved in all three goals.
His clever pass enabled Bakayoko to score his third goal in a blue shirt since his move from Monaco in a £40m deal – the attack started by Lossl’s slip.
Bakayoko should have made it 2-0 but headed wide after Willian had whipped in a free-kick before the latter made it 2-0, a close range header from Marcos Alonso’s cross.
Huddersfield’s lacklustre performance enabled Chelsea to extend their lead further, Pedro finding the top corner after Willian chested another Alonso cross into his path.
It was all too easy for the visitors, who sent on Michy Batshuayi for the final 21 minutes six days after the £33m signing had helped the club’s under-21s beat MK Dons 4-0 in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Belgium forward Batshuayi again failed to make Conte’s starting line-up even though Alvaro Morata was missing with a back problem.
Chelsea also sent on 17-year-old substitute Ethan Ampadu with 10 minutes remaining – the second youngest player to make an appearance in the Premier League for the club behind Jody Morris in 1996.
Terriers lack bite
Fixtures against the likes of Chelsea are unlikely to determine Huddersfield’s Premier League fate, yet they were a shadow of the side that famously beat Manchester United two months ago.
They allowed Chelsea to bully them from the start and it was only in the closing stages, when some fans had left the stadium and Chelsea had the points in the bag, that they improved.
Their first touch won in Chelsea’s penalty area came after an hour, while they managed just two shots on target all game.
Lossl’s slip that led to the first goal was unfortunate but the defending for Willian’s goal was poor, and Pedro was unmarked when he fired home.
Huddersfield’s cause was not helped when midfielder Jonathan Hogg was substituted at half-time after suffering a migraine and was struggling to see the ball.
Wagner’s side have now played all the ‘big six’ but they will have to keep possession better than they did against Chelsea when they entertain the likes of Stoke, Burnley and West Ham in the coming weeks.
Depoitre’s late consolation was an excellent glancing header from fellow substitute Florent Hadergjonaj’s cross. It was a pity many Huddersfield fans were already on their way home and missed it.
Man of the match – Willian (Chelsea)
Keeping their heads – the stats
- Chelsea have scored 10 headed goals in the Premier League this season – they only scored eight in the whole of last season.
- Marcos Alonso has had a hand in 13 goals since his Chelsea debut (9 goals, 4 assists) – two more than any other Premier League defender.
- Chelsea’s win at Huddersfield means the Blues have won at 50 different stadiums in the Premier League. Only Liverpool have won at more stadiums in the competition (53).
- Willian has been directly involved in six goals in his last four starts in all competitions for Chelsea.
- At 17 years and 89 days old, Ethan Ampadu is the second youngest Chelsea player to make an appearance in the Premier League after Jody Morris (17 years 43 days).
Wagner will hope to see an improvement from his side when they face Watford away on Saturday in the Premier League (15:00 GMT), while Chelsea at are home to Southampton at the same time.
Match ends, Huddersfield Town 1, Chelsea 3.
Second Half ends, Huddersfield Town 1, Chelsea 3.
Goal! Huddersfield Town 1, Chelsea 3. Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield Town) header from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Florent Hadergjonaj with a cross.
Foul by Daniel Drinkwater (Chelsea).
Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt missed. Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield Town) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Danny Williams.
Attempt missed. Danny Williams (Huddersfield Town) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the left.
Hand ball by Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea).
Tiemoué Bakayoko (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Laurent Depoitre (Huddersfield Town).
Offside, Chelsea. Antonio Rüdiger tries a through ball, but Victor Moses is caught offside.
Offside, Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi tries a through ball, but Pedro is caught offside.
Offside, Chelsea. Marcos Alonso tries a through ball, but Michy Batshuayi is caught offside.
Substitution, Chelsea. Ethan Ampadu replaces Andreas Christensen.
Victor Moses (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Aaron Mooy (Huddersfield Town).
Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield Town).
Substitution, Huddersfield Town. Laurent Depoitre replaces Steve Mounie.
Marcos Alonso (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Tommy Smith (Huddersfield Town).
Substitution, Chelsea. Daniel Drinkwater replaces N’Golo Kanté.
Offside, Chelsea. N’Golo Kanté tries a through ball, but Michy Batshuayi is caught offside.
Substitution, Chelsea. Michy Batshuayi replaces Eden Hazard.
Attempt missed. Pedro (Chelsea) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Eden Hazard.
Attempt missed. Pedro (Chelsea) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high.
Substitution, Huddersfield Town. Florent Hadergjonaj replaces Chris Löwe.
Attempt missed. Tom Ince (Huddersfield Town) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left.
Attempt missed. Zanka (Huddersfield Town) right footed shot from outside the box is just a bit too high.
Attempt saved. Tom Ince (Huddersfield Town) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Steve Mounie.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Jonas Lössl.
Attempt saved. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is saved in the bottom right corner.
Corner, Chelsea. Conceded by Zanka.
Attempt blocked. Victor Moses (Chelsea) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Eden Hazard.
Offside, Huddersfield Town. Christopher Schindler tries a through ball, but Steve Mounie is caught offside.
Offside, Chelsea. Willian tries a through ball, but Victor Moses is caught offside.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Zanka (Huddersfield Town).
Foul by Tiemoué Bakayoko (Chelsea).
Elias Kachunga (Huddersfield Town) wins a free kick in the defensive half.