LONDON, May 8 (Reuters) - Chelsea were heading for a comfortable 3-0 victory over an increasingly despondent Middlesbrough side facing relegation but still manager Antonio Conte could not sit down and enjoy the moment at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
He skipped and paced the touchline, gesticulating wildly to his players, yelling instructions and talking urgently to his bench. The Italian applauded the crowd, turned to each stand, and finally cracked a smile as the fans sang his name.
The goals prompted his usual animated celebrations and the final whistle, with Chelsea three points away from the Premier League title, was the signal for hugs and backslaps all round.
Conte is as demonstrative and emotional on the pitch as he is measured and softly spoken off it, though he did admit that in this match he felt “a little bit more relaxed”.
“To my players my message is now that we need to do another step... On Friday we have a good chance to finish -- it won’t be easy but for sure we’re close to a fantastic achievement,” he said looking towards the next match at West Browmich Albion.
Chelsea will clinch the Premier League if they win at the Hawthorns. Their nearest rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, can only watch and hope after they dropped points in a defeat at West Ham United last Friday and do not play again until Sunday.
Conte, whose side have led the table since November in his first season in charge, has been counting down the points, repeating each week like a mantra the number needed to get over the line. Tottenham have been breathing down their necks.
“Our worst moment was after the (Manchester) United defeat (last month) because Tottenham were winning. To see your opponent only four points behind was very hard,” he said.
“In that moment my players showed me great commitment to overcome this moment and to try to win the league.”
Commitment and hard work are buzzwords for the 47-year-old Conte but he urged his players to enjoy their moment.
“It’s great to breathe this atmosphere at Stamford Bridge,” he said. “It’s great for me, for my players, for the club to see this great atmosphere.” (Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Ken Ferris)