Eden Hazard’s wonder goal sent Chelsea third in the Premier League as the Blues beat West Ham 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Hazard showed the Chelsea fans what they might be missing next year with a virtuoso opener and late second in the sort of display that could convince Real Madrid to meet Chelsea’s reported £100million asking price.
The 28-year-old’s current Chelsea deal expires next summer and Madrid are reported to be closing in on his signature, although not without matching the Stamford Bridge hierarchy’s valuation.
Hazard moved to 19 goals in all competitions as he eyes the 20 mark for the first time at Chelsea. His 16 league goals leave him top of the pile for combined finishes and assists, with 28.
By the time Hazard applied the finish to his stunning opener, he had ghosted past Declan Rice and Mark Noble, and flummoxed Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna and Ryan Fredericks.
At the death, after Chelsea had wasted a succession of chances, up popped Hazard again, drilling home to seal the win.
Hazard’s masterful first strike not only lit up the match, it also kept Chelsea in the hunt for that all-important top-four finish.
Maurizio Sarri’s men moved two points ahead of fourth-placed Tottenham and three above Arsenal in fifth, albeit having played one more game than their Champions League qualification rivals.
From the moment Ogbonna was booked for taking out the marauding Hazard just eight minutes in, West Ham’s rearguard knew they were in for a night of looking over their shoulders.
Blind spots, weaknesses – Hazard sneaked into and scythed through all these and more in another mesmerising performance.
N’Golo Kante drilled over from 20 yards, then flicked inside for Cesar Azpilicueta, only for a heavy touch to deny the captain a shot on goal.
But then, appetisers cleared away, Hazard dished up the sumptuous main course.
Collecting the ball 10 yards inside the West Ham half, he proceeded to elude half of the Hammers’ outfield players before rolling home the finish for a goal to grace any stage.
Chelsea should have quickly had the chance to double their advantage, only to be denied what appeared a clear penalty when Marko Arnautovic barged Hazard off his feet.Gonzalo Higuain was unable to get on the score sheet (John Walton/PA).
Hazard’s magical night continued, the Belgium star outfoxing three defenders on the turn before whipping across a fine far-post ball to Callum Hudson-Odoi.
The England international saw a rasping shot blocked, while the 18-year-old later drew a smart near-post save from Lukasz Fabianski.
Gonzalo Higuain should then have scored at the death of the half, only for Fredericks to produce a timely block after the Argentinian’s neat chest control.
West Ham rallied after the break, Kepa Arrizabalaga saving well from Manuel Lanzini and then Felipe Anderson.Chelsea’s Eden Hazard acknowledges the fans after Chelsea’s win (John Walton/PA).
Ruben Loftus-Cheek undercooked a chip when through on goal before whipping wide from 20 yards amid the Blues’ riposte.
Aaron Cresswell drilled just wide after Antonion Rudiger’s tame header in another West Ham warning.
Ross Barkley could not reach Hudson-Odoi’s teasing cross, but still the Hammers pressed, Emerson Palmieri’s defensive header thwarting Arnautovic.
Olivier Giroud snatched at a chance too, but then Hazard again showed his team-mates how to finish, book-ending a night that had belonged to him from start to finish.
– Press Association
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