LONDON, November 21- Diego Costa struck his 11th goal in 10 Premier League games as leaders Chelsea cruised to a comfortable 2-0 home win over 10-man West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
Costa put the hosts on course for victory in the 11th minute and Eden Hazard added a second in the 25th minute, shortly before Claudio Yacob was dismissed for an ugly, two-footed lunge on Costa.
The one-sided win extended Jose Mourinho’s side’s lead at the head of the table to seven points, 48 hours before second-place Southampton travel to Aston Villa.
And the manner of victory only reinforced the growing consensus that the title is destined to end up at Stamford Bridge next May.
Costa and Cesc Fabregas had both been left out of the Spain squad for the recent international break to allow them to recover from niggling injuries.
Speaking before the game, Mourinho claimed Costa was now free of his hamstring and groin problems and ready to play a full role in the crowded schedule leading up to the turn of the year.
And the striker appeared ominously sharp right from the opening moments of the game as Chelsea simply swept West Brom aside.
It had taken a controversial late penalty from Hazard to deny Albion a deserved victory in last season’s corresponding fixture, but 12 months on, there was never any doubt Chelsea would secure the three points.
The home side would have been ahead within five minutes but for the sharp reactions of West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster, who stuck out a leg to repel John Terry’s close-range effort.
Foster would continue to play a major role in the visitors’ efforts to keep Chelsea at bay.
– Matic squanders chance –
But the England man had no chance with the 11th-minute opening goal, which demonstrated why Chelsea have been so formidable in attack this season.
Oscar collected the ball wide on the left and, seeing Costa free in space near the penalty spot, picked out his team-mate with a superb cross that the striker collected on his chest before volleying home.
It seemed only a matter of time before a second goal came along, despite the best efforts of Foster, who produced a full-length save to block Oscar’s powerful shot.
Chelsea’s passing and movement were outstanding, with Fabregas, Willian, Oscar and Hazard combining to repeatedly expose the West Brom back-line.
The last thing Alan Irvine’s side needed, then, was to gift the home team the opportunity to double their lead from a 25th-minute corner.
But when Stephane Sessegnon failed to track Hazard’s run towards the near post, the Belgium winger was able to collect Fabregas’s corner unchallenged and drill the ball beneath Foster via a slight deflection.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors when Yacob conjured an even more spectacular act of self-destruction that forced his side to play for 61 minutes with 10 men.
West Brom were facing humiliation, but they were spared by Chelsea’s failure to go for the kill after the break.
Nemanja Matic volleyed over when he should have scored after being picked out by yet another fine Oscar pass and Foster again saved well from Hazard.
But Mourinho’s side were also guilty of over-elaborating in the final third of the pitch and failed to translate their territorial dominance into more goals.