SWANSEA – Antonio Conte may have kept alive Chelsea’s hope of Champions League football, but he admitted Saturday there has been something missing this season – goals.
The Blues manager achieved his 50th victory in the Premier League, a 1-0 win away to Swansea, thanks to Cesc Fabregas's 50th goal in the competition, but Conte was dissatisfied by the London club's fourth successive victory in all competitions.
The win in south Wales saw fifth-placed Chelsea close to within two points of capital rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the race for a top-four finish. Spurs play Watford on Monday.
But Eden Hazard, who set up Fabregas for his fourth-minute winner, is Chelsea's leading scorer this season with a modest 12 goals.
"Our top scorer has scored only 12 goals, and if your best scorer has scored only 12 goals it means it is very difficult to fight for something this season," said Conte.
"That is the reality – the stats speak very well," the Italian manager added.
"I think even today we could be more clinical to kill the game, but instead we kept the game in balance.
"Against West Ham, it happened the same. We dominated and created many chances, but we scored only one goal.
"It could have happened the same today. I think this season we are not clinical and in the last period we are winning but also playing a little bit where we could kill the game but don’t.”
Chelsea require Spurs to falter or for Liverpool to be so wrapped in their Champions League campaign they drop further points.
The Blues are grinding out wins, as they did against a spirited but toothless Swansea, but they are reliant on others to slip up, regardless of whatever they achieve themselves in their three remaining league matches.
"The situation is not in our hands, but the only way to put a bit of pressure to Tottenham is to get three points in every game," said Conte.
"It won't be easy, we know they (Tottenham) will play against Watford on Monday but you know very well football is not simple.
"It is not simple to win a game in this league, but for sure our situation is not in our hands."
After Fabregas had curled home a sublime shot following Hazard seizing on a mistake by Andy King in the fourth minute, Chelsea failed to make the most of other clear opportunities.
While Chelsea look upwards for others to stumble, Swansea are looking downward with increasing nervousness.
This was their sixth game without a win and they are now just a point above the bottom three – the teams that will be relegated at the end of the season.
There was urgency and desperation enough in Swansea's game, but little quality in front of goal and the biggest mark left by top scorer Jordan Ayew was on the neck of Chelsea skipper Gary Cahill when he arrived with a late elbow – an incident which referee Jon Moss somehow missed.
Both managers claimed it escaped their attention, too, with Swansea boss Carlos Carvalhal more agitated by Moss's refusal to award a penalty after a lunge by Cahill on Nathan Dyer.
"I saw it," Carvalhal said. "The defender tries to get the ball but he doesn’t see Dyer. He takes the ball and Dyer together.
"Outside the area it’s a foul, so in the area it must be a penalty."
He added: "In general I think we did enough to achieve minimum one point. If we carry on playing like that, it's sure that we will win the points we need."