Having been given a rest in midweek, Hazard took Newcastle United apart and made it eight goals in 10 games to help Chelsea to a sixth victory in seven Premier League outings.

After missing the start of the season while he recovered from a broken ankle, Hazard has now been directly involved in a goal every 83 minutes and is back to his unstoppable best.

While those around him are feeling the effects of a busy fixture list, Hazard is fresh and firing thanks to his summer break. There is little danger of burn-out ahead of Russia, although he may travel to the World Cup with a few bruises.

Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte even joked that England’s best hope may be that Gary Cahill gives Hazard some rough treatment.

“I have to speak with Gary to tell him to… to give the kicks to Eden, yeah!” said Conte with a broad smile. “Gary knows very well Hazard’s skill and for this reason he must pay great attention.

“It will be special to see this game between England and Belgium, and, if I have the possibility, I would like to watch it.”

Hazard was also in the mood for a laugh as he was asked about the prospect of facing England.

“For Belgium, it’s easy against England! No, I am joking. It will be a tough game. All the teams deserve to be at the World Cup and England were top of their group, so we will see what happens.”

English Premier League

Team P W D L GD Pts
1 Manchester City 14 13 1 0 35 40
2 Manchester United 14 10 2 2 24 32
3 Chelsea 15 10 2 3 16 32
4 Liverpool 15 8 5 2 12 29
5 Arsenal 14 9 1 4 12 28
6 Tottenham Hotspur 15 7 4 4 10 25
7 Burnley 15 7 4 4 2 25
8 Watford 15 6 4 5 -1 22
9 Leicester City 15 5 5 5 0 20
10 Everton 15 5 3 7 -9 18
11 Brighton and Hove Albion 15 4 5 6 -3 17
12 Southampton 14 4 4 6 -3 16
13 Stoke City 15 4 4 7 -12 16
14 Newcastle United 15 4 3 8 -8 15
15 Huddersfield Town 15 4 3 8 -17 15
16 Bournemouth 14 4 2 8 -4 14
17 West Bromwich Albion 15 2 7 6 -9 13
18 Crystal Palace 15 2 4 9 -17 10
19 West Ham United 14 2 4 8 -18 10
20 Swansea City 15 2 3 10 -10 9

Ciaran Clark was booked for kicking Hazard on Saturday, but not even that was enough to stop him terrorising the Newcastle defence and ruining Rafa Benitez’s first return to Stamford Bridge since his unpopular seven-month stint as interim manager in 2012.

Despite not being wanted by the Chelsea fans, Benitez guided Chelsea to the Europa League and a third-place Premier League finish.

But he was never forgiven for his association with Liverpool and the Chelsea supporters reminded Benitez of their dislike of him by booing the Spaniard’s name and chanting ‘you fat *******’.

For the first 15 minutes, it seemed like Benitez might just get the last laugh as Chelsea started sloppily and Newcastle took advantage.

Having already seen Mikel Merino shoot straight at Thibaut Courtois, the visitors took a shock early lead after taking advantage of some woeful Chelsea defending.

Marcos Alonso put Courtois in trouble by trying to toe the ball back to him after it had deflected off Dwight Gayle. The Belgian saved at the feet of Jacob Murphy, but Gayle was there to dispatch the rebound into the net.

It was Gayle who had given Newcastle an early lead at Manchester United a few weeks earlier, only to see Jose Mourinho’s men hit four against them.

Newcastle failed to defend their lead once again, as Chelsea were level eight minutes later through Hazard. Goalkeeper Karl Darlow had already denied Hazard once, survived a loud penalty appeal for a challenge on Alvaro Morata and seen Andreas Christensen head against the post, before he was finally beaten by Chelsea’s brilliant Belgian.

Cesar Azpilicueta’s ball into the box was intended for Morata. Florian Lejeune got there first, but could only clear as far as Hazard, who controlled his shot superbly to beat Darlow.

From that moment on it was only a matter of how many Chelsea would score and they took the lead in the 33rd minute, as Morata netted his ninth Premier League goal of the season.

Matt Ritchie should have cleared Antonio Rudiger’s hopeful pass for Victor Moses, but he instead headed it straight to the Nigerian international, whose cross was headed in by Morata.

On another day, Hazard might have finished the game with a hat-trick. He had a 56th-minute shot deflected just wide of the post and almost wriggled his way around Clark, Lejeune and Chancel Mbemba, but overran the ball through to Darlow.

Making only his second Premier League start, Danny Drinkwater looked at home in the Chelsea midfield and he almost played Hazard through after exchanging passes with the 26-year-old.

Drinkwater was criticised for turning down a late call-up to Southgate’s last England squad as he recovered from injury, but Conte still believes the midfielder can clinch a World Cup spot. “It’s normal to have the right chance [to play for England] because Danny is starting to play with Chelsea, with a great team,” said Conte.

“He started slowly like the team today, but then he improved a lot. It’s great for me and the team to have another option especially when we play with the three midfielders. It’s of vital importance.”

There was no denying Hazard a second goal with 16 minutes remaining, as he displayed the coolest of heads from the spot. Makeshift left wing-back Ritchie was again at fault, as he upended Moses and Hazard chipped a Panenka penalty into the net as Darlow dived early.

There was still time for Darlow to save smartly again from Hazard before he went off to a standing ovation with the three points secure. The hard work starts now for Southgate.


Leave a comment


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here