Hazard brilliance allows Chelsea to bounce back

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 0 5,401

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Hazard scored two superb goals. AFP

Hazard brilliance allows Chelsea to bounce back

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 0 5,401

Chelsea came away with a convincing but unspectacular win thanks to two moments of genius from Eden Hazard which changed a game that could have had an entirely different outcome. The Blues move back into the top four, a point ahead of Spurs and only three behind second-placed Manchester United.

After suffering humbling defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford, the Blues hosted West Brom with Antonio Conte aiming to avoid three consecutive defeats for the first time in nine years. The questions surrounding the Italian manager's future reached a deafening volume after falling at Vicarage Road and the Baggies presented themselves as a perfect opportunity for Chelsea to get their season back on track at Stamford Bridge.

The current basement club in the Premier League still proved a dangerous opponent, putting Conte's men to the test but, after a shaky start, the Blues eventually took control against a far-from-awful West Brom side.

The visitors controlled play early on with Chelsea's only joy coming on the break. Jay Rodriguez, who replaced the injured Daniel Sturridge after three minutes, had two rare openings, first sending a volley wayward and then failing to take advantage of a horrible header back from Moses. The Baggies forward panicked and skewed it wide first-time despite having plenty of space to run at Courtois.

But before the crowd at Stamford Bridge could turn on Conte, the hosts began to take the game to West Brom's half, with Pedro and Hazard getting increasingly involved. Zappacosta forced a first save from Foster after getting on the end of an Azpilicueta cross to the far post, and a spell of good pressure saw Olivier Giroud roll the ball harmlessly at the goalkeeper from close range.

The Frenchman did much better moments later, linking up with Eden Hazard to open the scoring. The Belgian played a terrific give-and-go on the edge of the box with Giroud, who held off Hegazi and laid the ball back into the path of his team-mate. Hazard made no mistake, finishing smartly beyond Foster and into the bottom corner.

The sense of relief was evident around the stadium, and the pressure was lifted off the players who knocked the ball around comfortably in search of a second to double their lead. Giroud put up a good fight with Hegazi and Evans but failed to hit the target as he looked to open his Chelsea tally.

- West Brom tactics backfired -

A brave move from Alan Pardew at half-time saw West Brom switch to a 3-4-3 formation at the break, a courageous approach and more so at the home of the Premier League champions. Chelsea were let off the hook as the visitors refused to go down without a fight. Salomon Rondon outmuscled Christensen before being denied by Courtois when one-on-one.

Bandaged Giroud was applauded off the pitch as Alvaro Morata returned for Chelsea, with the Spaniard going for goal with his very first touch. The Blues doubled their lead just seconds later, Fabregas playing a deflected return pass into the path of Moses, who slotted it calmly under the onrushing Foster.

Moses came close to a quick brace as he fired a left-footed strike across goal, but Foster cleared with his legs. And Hazard put the game to bed with 20 minutes still to go. The Belgian turned inside a West Brom defender and from the edge of the box superbly smashed the ball in at the near post. The scoreline was harsh on West Brom, but the hosts' quality told and Hazard's brilliance once again proved the difference.

Patrick Power

Patrick Power

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