Chelsea climbed up to third on the Premier League table courtesy of an Eden Hazard brace as they beat West Ham United 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea were the stronger of the two sides to begin with, dominating the proceedings pretty much from the get go. And, their superiority was rewarded midway through the first half as Eden Hazard finished a solo goal, first running beyond Mark Noble before slaloming past Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena to score the goal.
Thereafter, the Blues continued dominating the proceedings, with Gonzalo Higuain being denied twice, once by the post and then later by Ryan Fredericks. In the second half though, West Ham stepped up, troubling the Chelsea defence on a few occasions.
But, Chelsea’s lead remained intact courtesy some smart goalkeeping by Kepa Arrizabalaga, while the defenders kept the opposition attack at an arm’s length. The hosts finally put the game to bed in the final minute of regulation time and it was that man Hazard again, as he calmly finished past Lukasz Fabianski.
The result means Chelsea are now up to third on the Premier League table with 66 points and in a decent position to ensure a top-four finish. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Maurizio Sarri’s men following their third straight win.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 8/10
For much of the night, Kepa had absolutely nothing to do, with Chelsea dominating the proceedings. But when called into action, the Spaniard was on hand to keep the Blues’ lead intact, denying Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson expertly. Distributed the ball well too, in what was a professional display.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
Azpilicueta was surprisingly barely an outlet in the final third in the first half, despite Chelsea’s dominance. But, the skipper stepped up on all fronts post the break, with his link-ups with Callum Hudson-Odoi troubling the West Ham defenders. Stuck to his guns and defended smartly against Marko Arnautovic and Anderson when required.
Antonio Rudiger: 8/10
Back into the side in place of Andreas Christensen, Rudiger was solid throughout, bar one moment when Arnautovic slipped the ball to Manuel Lanzini. Otherwise, Rudiger kept a check on Javier Hernandez, which meant the Mexican striker had a night to forget against one of his most favourite opponents.
David Luiz: 7/10
Alongside Rudiger, Luiz was colossal against Chicharito in a strong first half. In the second half though, Arnautovic provided his some cause for concern at times. All in all, however, the Brazilian defender was solid on the night, giving West Ham very little space to exploit.
Emerson Palmieri: 7/10
With Marcos Alonso still not fit enough to start, Emerson had the perfect occasion to nail his spot down. And, he seized his opportunity, keeping a check on Lanzini while also supporting Hazard well in the final third. Growing in confidence with each passing performance.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 8/10
It is symbolic as to how Sarri’s stance towards utilising youngsters has changed, with Loftus-Cheek getting a second successive start on Monday. And, the Englishman was dominating in the middle of the park, and his driving runs into the final third seem like exactly what was needed to make the Chelsea midfield more dynamic.
Jorginho may have struggled to adjust seamlessly to English football, but on Monday, the Italian international was in the mood, pulling the strings ever so effortlessly. As a result, Chelsea barely lost the ball when he was passing it along, which ensured their domination. Did his part well.
N’Golo Kante: 8/10
One of those N’Golo Kante performances wherein he is all over the park, defending when needed and charging forward for the most part. The Frenchman was the perfect complement to the Azpilicueta-Hudson-Odoi tandem. Looks increasingly dangerous in the final third with every passing game.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 7/10
Chelsea fans would have been pleased to see Hudson-Odoi start for a second game in a row. And, they were unlikely to have been left disappointed, even though he was not a constant threat. But, when in his elements, Aaron Cresswell had his hands full and some. Should continue to get a run of games, for his and Chelsea’s sake.
Gonzalo Higuain: 7/10
Higuain might not have gotten onto the score sheet, but he was the ideal foil for Hazard’s domineering performance. The Argentine though, would have been frustrated for missing out on the night, primarily down to sheer bad luck. Nevertheless, he was much improved against West Ham, and will now hope to build on this display.
Eden Hazard: 10/10
Chelsea’s talisman showed for the umpteenth time that the Blues just cannot afford to see him leave, especially at a time when the links with Real Madrid are gathering steam. In the mood all throughout, Hazard left everyone flabbergasted and a couple of West Ham defenders on their backsides with his first goal, which was just a thing of beauty.
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For his second, Hazard’s touch was simply exquisite before he calmly finished past Fabianski. Between the two moments, the Belgian international ran the show, be it by getting into open spaces or creating them himself. But, Sarri’s comments post the match suggesting that Chelsea are powerless to stop him from leaving would have left the fans concerned.
Ross Barkley: 7/10
On for Loftus-Cheek, Barkley was in the mood to impress Sarri to reclaim his place in the side. And, impress he did, looking confident on the ball while also providing the assist to Hazard with a clever lobbed ball.
Olivier Giroud: N/A
Giroud had 15 minutes to make an impact and he was in just the frame of mind to do so. But, Fabianski’s terrific save left the French striker frustrated, although he seems to be the man to call when Chelsea face Slavia Praha in the UEFA Europa League this week.
On for the final few minutes in place of Hudson-Odoi, Pedro simply provided a pair of fresh legs and did not have much time to make an impact.