Chelsea will miss him if he goes. We all will. Even by Eden Hazard’s elevated standards, this was on an altogether different plane. His manager Maurizio Sarri described his brilliant Belgian as irreplaceable. He’s not wrong.
Not that Mark Noble, Declan Rice, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna and Ryan Fredericks appreciated his splendour. Hazard left all five in his wake to score a mesmeric solo goal which invigorated Chelsea’s hopes of Champions League qualification.
No doubt, the Hammers’ embarrassed quintet won’t be the only Premier League stars who’ll be glad to see the back of him if – as is looking increasingly likely – Hazard signs for Real Madrid this summer.
Eden Hazard produced some individual brilliance to help Chelsea beat London rivals West Ham United on Monday evening
Chelsea’s victory at Stamford Bridge saw them rise to third place in the Premier League, boosting hopes of a top-four finish
Hazard’s first moment of magic came midway through the first half when he danced between defenders to score beautifully
Hazard put the result beyond doubt in the 90th minute when he hit a low shot into the West Ham net to put Chelsea 2-0 up
PLAYER RATINGS AND LIVE PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Kepa 6.5; Azpilicueta 7, Rudiger 6.5, Luiz 6.5, Emerson 7; Kante 7, Jorginho 7, Loftus-Cheek 8 (Barkley 70, 7); Hudson-Odoi 7 (Pedro 85), Higuain 6.5 (Giroud 76), Hazard 9.5
Subs not used: Caballero, Kovacic, Willian, Christensen
Goals: Hazard 24, 90
Booked: Azpilicueta, Kepa
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7.5
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 6; Fredericks 6.5, Balbuena 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Noble 6 (Obiang 70, 5), Rice 7; Arnautovic 5.5, Lanzini 5.5, Anderson 5.5; Hernandez 5 (Snodgrass 46, 5)
Subs not used: Adrian, Nasri, Diop, Masuaku, Perez
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini 6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6.5
Att: 40, 537
- Premier League
- Premier League
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Serie A
- La Liga
There are still hurdles to overcome before the Belgian becomes a Galactico – namely Chelsea’s £100million valuation – but Real want Hazard and, unfortunately for Chelsea and English football, Hazard wants Real, though the Belgian insisted after Monday’s game that he is still to make a final decision on his future. We’ve seen this story before, we know how it ends. We must appreciate him while he is still here.
His first goal of a brace was, undoubtedly, one of the best he has scored – and there’s been a few – but the way he conducted Chelsea’s play, how he kept his team-mates singing to his tune was poetry in motion. In a word: unstoppable.
Chelsea are confident there’ll be life after Hazard, underlined by Sarri’s decision to keep faith with academy products Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on Monday night following their promising displays in the win over Brighton.
However replacing Hazard appears the impossible job. Of course, it will literally be impossible if FIFA refuse Chelsea’s appeal over their two window transfer ban this week.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, pictured running at Angelo Ogbonna, started a Premier League game for just the second time
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was also handed a rare Premier League start for Chelsea — just the midfielder’s fourth this season
Hazard broke the deadlock by scoring a superb solo goal midway through the first half at Stamford Bridge on Monday night
Hazard picked the ball up 35 yards from goal before dribbling past five defenders and shooting into the West Ham net
‘From the technical point of view, we can’t afford to lose him,’ said Sarri. ‘Also because it’s impossible to find another Hazard. At the moment there isn’t another Hazard, the level is so high.
‘You’d have to find two players to make the level of Hazard. So I hope Hazard can stay here, otherwise we’ll have to try something different.
‘I’m sure the club doesn’t want to sell him, but, of course, we all have to respect his decision, I think. He’s in the last season of contract (next year). If he wants to have another experience, we’ll respect that. We’ll try, of course, in any way to convince him to stay, but it’s not easy.’
Bragging rights aside, Chelsea unquestionably had far more riding on this – victory propelling the Blues above Tottenham into third – an unlikely scenario only a few weeks ago when Sarri’s reign appeared to be crumbling at a rate of knots.
Sarri’s job remains under scrutiny, but the screw is far looser than it has been. Not that came as a crumb of comfort to West Ham and their supporters who simply hate losing to Chelsea.
There were further concerns for Manuel Pellegrini who revealed Samir Nasri sustained a calf injury as he warmed up ahead of coming on as a half-time substitute at Stamford Bridge.
After giving Chelsea the lead, Belgian star Hazard celebrated by putting his hands to his ears and sticking out his tongue
West Ham supporters did not appear to appreciate Hazard’s celebration and some aimed offensive hand gestures at him
Hazard slid on his knees in front of the Chelsea supporters, who were full of admiration following his brilliant strike
As Hazard confidently celebrated in front of the Chelsea fans, team-mate Emerson Palmieri came to congratulate him
Amid Hazard’s masterclass, an intriguing battle between two of England’s brightest midfielders – Loftus-Cheek and Rice – unfolded. The Chelsea star just about edged the duel, though Rice was one of West Ham’s top performers on a disappointing night.
England manager Gareth Southgate was somewhere rubbing his hands together – but that was all a sideshow. Hazard was the headline act.
An early N’Golo Kante effort aside, the encounter got off to a mundane start. That was until the 23rd minute when Hazard shifted through the gears.
There looked little danger when Loftus-Cheek gave his team-mate the ball around 45 yards out. Seconds later, having bamboozled five West Ham players, Hazard was stroking the ball past Lukasz Fabianski. Stamford Bridge erupted. So they should; a moment of genius – a goal of the season contender.
West Ham, plain and simply, couldn’t contain Chelsea’s little magician. Higuain hit the post after Hazard’s pinpoint lofted pass before the Belgium international was denied what looked a stonewall penalty after Marko Arnautovic inexplicably barged the attacker deep inside the area.
Declan Rice, who had been on the books at Chelsea as a teenager, looked frustrated as Hazard and co celebrated behind him
Striker Gonzalo Higuain, pictured under pressure from Fabian Balbuena, came close to doubling Chelsea’s lead
Higuain fired in a left-foot shot from a tight angle and watched on as his effort hit Lukasz Fabianski’s post and bounced clear
Fabianski had to tip over Hudson-Odoi’s fierce effort in the 40th minute after Hazard’s eye of a needle pass, though the Hammers keeper nearly undid his work from the resultant corner, taken – obviously – by a certain diminutive Belgian.
Higuain – who has made clear his intention to stay at Stamford Bridge on a permanent basis this summer – was then denied by Frederick’s brilliant goal-saving block as Chelsea went in ahead at the break.
Chelsea deserved more for their first-half showing, and in the home dressing room, Sarri may have been wondering if his team would be left to rue their glut of missed opportunities.
Those concerns nearly came home to roost in the 55th minute when Kepa produced fantastic save to deny Manuel Lanzini before the Spaniard stopped Felipe Anderson’s curling effort soon after. That was always the danger for Chelsea, though Loftus-Cheek missed a golden chance to extend Chelsea’s lead.
Aaron Cresswell smashed an effort just wide as Chelsea’s anxiety started to grow, amplified by the boos that rang round Stamford Bridge towards Sarri’s decision to replace Loftus-Cheek with Barkley in the 70th minute.
Chelsea hearts were in their mouths again in the 83rd minute when Emerson deflected Arnautovic’s header narrowly wide, but Hazard, fittingly, clinched victory in the final minute, driving home Barkley’s cross to seal victory and his own captivating display.