Chelsea manager Antonio Conte praised the club’s fans for sticking by him, after a comfortable win over West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge eased the pressure on the Italian.
Conte’s Chelsea future had been placed under the harshest spotlight after successive heavy losses to Bournemouth and Watford – but a victory that took them back up to fourth in the Premier League will ease those concerns for now.
Conte’s name was sung throughout by the home fans, in an obvious show of support.
“I have to thank the fans because they showed me great support,” he said. “They are reading speculation and rumours on me and I’m grateful to the fans.
Conte needed the brilliance of Eden Hazard to settle early uncertainty on the pitch and in the stands.
Hazard exchanged passes with Olivier Giroud before giving Chelsea a first-half lead and, after Victor Moses slid home a second after the break, sealed victory with a powerful drive in the 71st minute.
The win took the Blues a point ahead of fifth-placed Tottenham.
West Brom, meanwhile, are seven points from safety after one win in 25 league games.
They were hampered by losing loan signing Daniel Sturridge to injury inside three minutes. Substitute Jay Rodriguez wasted an opportunity to put them ahead when clean through, and Salomon Rondon and Jonny Evans also missed chances with the game in the balance.
For Conte, however, it was a satisfying night and the pressure – temporarily at least – is off.
Conte walked out to take his place in the technical area with his future as Chelsea manager shrouded in uncertainty.
The Italian insists he wants to see out the remainder of his contract – which runs until 2019 – and the club have not shown any inclination they want to bring his reign to an end just months after he won the Premier League in his first season.