Hazard keeps Chelsea on title track

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Chelsea re-established their 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a disciplined 2-1 win over West Ham on Monday.

The visitors started reasonably well, though allowed their hosts to get a foothold in the game by ceding possession in the early stages. West Ham did very little with it, however, and after 25 minutes Chelsea made them pay when a sweeping counter-attack featuring N’Golo Kante and Pedro was beautifully finished off by Eden Hazard. The Blues should have doubled their lead when an air shot from Diego Costa led to Victor Moses’ shot being blocked before Darren Randolph saved Pedro’s follow-up.

Chelsea made amends five minutes into the second half when an unmarked Costa bundled the ball over the line from a corner. West Ham huffed and puffed without really posing a threat until some complacency from their London neighbours allowed Manuel Lanzini to grab a consolation goal.

Positives

Ruthless on the counter-attack and composed in keeping West Ham at arm’s length once they moved into a two-goal lead. Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was how they dealt with the inevitable aerial bombardment and neutralised the imposing threat of Andy Carroll.

Negatives

The sloppy goal conceded at the end was frustrating and there were a few misplaced passes under no pressure in dangerous situations. But overall it was very professional performance.

Manager rating out of 10

8 — Retaining Cesc Fabregas in the starting XI paid off and so did the switch to 3-5-2. The introduction of Kurt Zouma and Nemanja Matic in the latter stages to add height and ballast to the team was also important.

Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 — Had few shots to save and had no chance with the goal. Had plenty of aerial balls to deal with and did that excellently.

DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 — There was an errant pass in the first half but otherwise he gave Robert Snodgrass a difficult evening. Showed good attacking intent when switched to wing-back.

DF David Luiz, 8 — Composure personified as he orchestrated Chelsea’s play from deep. Stepped into midfield well and sent several dangerous raking balls forward.

DF Gary Cahill, 7 — Apart from a poor pass in the first half, the Englishman had another solid game. Was imperious in the air and generally used the ball sensibly.

MF Marcos Alonso, 7 — Another well-balanced game in both attack and defence. Should have won a second-half penalty when his wonderful solo run was ended by a trip from Winston Reid.

Eden Hazard’s goal set the tone for Chelsea en route to a 2-1 win at West Ham.

MF Victor Moses, 8 — Won his aerial battle against Carroll, cleared a goalbound shot off the line and cut out a dangerous Mark Noble cross. A tremendous defensive display from the converted winger.

MF N’Golo Kante, 9 — Nicked possession to set the counter-attack going for the opening goal. Just one moment of many pivotal contributions from the Frenchman in an individual performance of perpetual motion.

MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 — Used the ball well as you would expect but was also diligent in his defensive duties, even taking a booking for the team when stopping Aaron Cresswell’s incisive run. Should have done better than firing over when presented with a decent second-half chance.

FW Pedro, 8 — A figure of seemingly inexhaustible energy, the Spaniard was a continual presence in Chelsea’s better moments in the opening hour. Linked brilliantly with Hazard for the opener.

FW Eden Hazard, 9 — In terms of sheer skill, he was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch. Scored a sensational goal, mesmerised the home defence all night and even perfectly executed a volleyed pass with his back.

FW Diego Costa, 6 — Another strange display in which the striker struggled to get going. Nevertheless, he still managed a goal and forced a stunning save from Randolph following a wonderful turn and shot.

Substitutes

MF Nemanja Matic, 7 — Provided excellent balance between defence and attack as Chelsea sought to play out time.

FW Willian, NR — Slotted in well with some nice runs and touches after being introduced for Pedro.

DF Kurt Zouma, NR — Made some important interventions and even went on an ambitious forward run which ended when he tripped over the ball.

Source: ESPN

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