Hazard wizardry leads Chelsea into third after win over West Ham (video)
- Hazard scores 15th and 16th goals of the season
- Chelsea moves past Spurs into 3rd
- Blues unbeaten on Monday in PL play since 1994
Eden Hazard may be headed to Real Madrid this summer or he may not, but either way he’s a Chelsea man for now, and the Blues are far better for it.
The Belgian superstar bossed the game at Stamford Bridge, and produced a brace - including a Goal of the Season - as Chelsea topped West Ham United 2-0. The young English duo of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were bright in spots and Gonzalo Higuain provided a constant threat up front, but it was Hazard who unquestionably pulled the strings from start to finish.
Hazard engineered the opener on 24 minutes as all of Stamford Bridge could see what was coming, yet nobody in Claret and Blue could do anything about it. The Belgian magician produced a spectacular run straight down West Ham’s throat, slicing and weaving down the middle, into the box, and having passed by no fewer than four defenders and cutting between the final two, he buried the shot into the back of the net under pressure from the last man Ryan Fredericks.
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It was all Chelsea from that point through halftime. The hosts nearly doubled the lead moments later as Gonzalo Higuain’s shot from an incredibly tight angle was saved by Lukasz Fabianski up onto the crossbar. Callum Hudson-Odoi, on his second start in two matches, worked the keeper in the 41st minute with a right-footed blast that forced Fabianski again to full-stretch.
After the break, Chelsea remained the stronger team, but West Ham worked a quality counter-attack in the 54th minute that saw Manuel Lanzini force an acrobatic save from Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. The Blues came back down the other end and worked a chance for Ruben Loftus-Cheek who got clean through and looked to chip Fabianski but his shot didn’t have the height to trouble the goalkeeper.
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The Hammers had their best chance just past the half-hour mark with Aaron Cresswell firing just inches wide, beating both Kepa and the far post. Still, they couldn’t keep Hazard under wraps. The Belgian had another slaloming run in the 65th minute that nearly produced a chance but he had no support.
With Chelsea unable to put the Hammers away, the finish was tense. Chelsea came close again in the 78th minute as Hazard brought the ball forward and worked it to Hudson-Odoi on the right, and while his cross was scything across the face of goal, it agonizingly eluded both a streaking Ross Barkley and the far post. West Ham had another good chance minutes later as Marko Arnautovic worked an open set-piece header, but his effort was blocked by Emerson.
Finally, Chelsea put the game away in the 90th minute on Hazard’s second of the game and 16th of the season. Ross Barkley delivered a ball into the box for a wide-open Hazard, and he finished from a tight angle through pressure from Felipe Anderson. Maurizio Sarri celebrated enthusiastically, and the Blues confirmed their third-place spot in the Premier League table, passing Tottenham with 66 points on the year. Hazard himself has been directly involved in 28 goals in league play this season, the most in the English top flight.
West Ham, meanwhile, fails to move closer to the top half, sitting in 11th on 42 points, four back of 10th placed Watford and three above Crystal Palace in 12th. The loss is West Ham’s fourth in their last six league matches, a run which has seen them drop out of the top half after sitting ninth in early March.