Thursday 22 August 2019

Hazard masterclass leaves Hammers chasing shadows

Chelsea 2-0 West Ham United

Eden Hazard of Chelsea applauds the crowd. Photo: Getty
Eden Hazard of Chelsea applauds the crowd. Photo: Getty

Matt Law

We may well be witnessing the countdown to the end of Eden Hazard's Chelsea career, but it appears the forward wants to give Stamford Bridge a few more memories to cherish before he waves farewell.

Real Madrid may not thank Hazard for pushing his price up with a goal of stunning quality against West Ham United, but the Spaniards were given another reminder of why he is worth every penny Chelsea demand - even with just a year remaining on his contract.

"If Eden Hazard wants to make another experience it is very difficult to keep him here," stated his manager Maurizio Sarri.

"It (£100m) is too cheap in this market!"

It was not just the opening goal, which he later added to with a second, but Hazard's general performance that marked him out from every other player on the pitch. He is a special talent that English football will miss.

Hazard now has 19 goals in all competitions this season and in this kind of form, he is good enough to make sure he helps Maurizio Sarri's side qualify for the Champions League before his exit.

Eden Hazard beats West Ham's Ryan Fredericks as he scores his team's first goal. Photo: Getty
Eden Hazard beats West Ham's Ryan Fredericks as he scores his team's first goal. Photo: Getty

This result pushed them up to third place in the Premier League and made it three successive victories in the race for the top four. Sarri stuck with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who had helped Chelsea to a 3-0 victory over Brighton.

Rested

But in-form striker Olivier Giroud was rested in preparation for Thursday night's Europa League trip to Slavia Prague, so Gonzalo Higuain came back in.

The Argentine played a wonderful through ball for Hazard to chase that forced Angelo Ogbonna to foul the Belgian. The West Ham defender was booked but Emerson put the free-kick well wide.

West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice (L) vies with Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice (L) vies with Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Hazard's first moment of magic came on 24 minutes, as he stunned Stamford Bridge with a contender for goal of the season.

Having picked the ball up from Loftus-Cheek 40 yards from goal, Hazard accelerated past Mark Noble and Declan Rice before leaving Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena for dead, and avoiding an attempted challenge from Ryan Fredericks to shoot past Lukasz Fabianski.

As most of the crowd were still digesting what they had just witnessed, Hazard then played a sublime pass over the top of the West Ham defence and Higuain hit the outside of Fabianski's post.

The visitors breathed a sigh of relief again just before the half-hour mark, when Marko Arnautovic somehow got away with shoving Hazard to the ground in his own penalty area.

This was Hazard at his best and the next Chelsea player almost to profit from his genius was Hudson-Odoi, who was picked out at the back post but could not get a shot away.

Manuel Pellegrini's changes did little to write home about in a first half in which his team were lucky not to be out of the game.

Another brilliant Hazard pass found Hudson-Odoi but the winger's shot was tipped over by Fabianksi.

It took a superb block from Fredericks to stop Higuain doubling Chelsea's lead just before the interval from N'Golo Kante's cross.

Despite being outplayed for the first 55 minutes, there was a sign of encouragement for the visitors when Manuel Lanzini forced Kepa Arrizabalaga in to his first save.

Kepa was well beaten when Aaron Cresswell smashed a left-footed volley towards goal but the ball flew just wide of the post.

The game had opened up and Hazard almost got through with more solo brilliance, before Anderson burst towards the byline but poked the ball straight to Kepa.

With 20 minutes to go Sarri sent on Ross Barkley for Loftus-Cheek, who had curled a shot narrowly wide during the second half.

Hudson-Odoi almost set up Barkley to settle any late nerves but the midfielder could not connect with the ball at the back post.

It mattered not, as Hazard added a second in the 90th minute from Barkley's pass. It really was his night.

Telegraph.co.uk

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