Eden Hazard stars, Tiemoue Bakayoko silences his critics in Chelsea rout
Chelsea cruised to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Huddersfield Town at a rainswept John Smith's Stadium. The Blues dominated possession throughout the contest, and the result was never in doubt from the moment Tiemoue Bakayoko's deflected shot beat Terriers 'keeper Jonas Lossl midway through the first half. Willian doubled the London club's lead with a headed goal just before the break and Pedro wrapped up the points with a fine shot from the edge of the box five minutes after the restart.
Chelsea needed a positive performance after failing to compete adequately against West Ham at the weekend and in trying conditions, they put on a display of attacking football worthy of their status as reigning Premier League champions. Bakayoko answered his critics with an excellent showing in midfield while further forward Willian and Pedro capably demonstrated the depth of the Blues creative attacking talent.
Antonio Conte's decision to leave Alvaro Morata at home should have paved the way for fellow striker Michy Batshuayi to fill the breach, but the Italian clearly doesn't trust the 24-year old Belgium international to do a job for him. Hazard stepped in admirably, but should Chelsea's star man succumb to the fatigue that is sapping Morata's strength then the Blues might run into problems in the next few weeks as pitches get heavier and the fixtures come thick and fast. Manager rating out of 10
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Conte made some big calls resting Gary Cahill in favour of Antonio Rudiger, keeping faith with Bakayoko, and fielding Eden Hazard as a false 9 in place of fatigued striker Alvaro Morata. The the Italian will be extremely pleased with the outcome as his team functioned well as a cohesive unit, dominated possession and had the game won inside the first 45 minutes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- An hour of the game passed before Courtois was called into action but the Belgium international proved he'd remained focused on the matters at hand pulling off a fine save from Tom Ince. Had no chance with Laurent Depoitre's last-gasp, consolation header.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- It's become customary for Azpilicueta to skipper Chelsea when Cahill doesn't play, and the Spain international has grown adeptly into the role. Azpi is arguably the Blues most reliable player and once again he didn't shirk his responsibilities, defending stoutly and providing encouragement for the two younger men beside him.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- 21-year old Christensen is making the most of the ongoing absence of David Luiz and the Denmark international put in another unflustered display of competent defending and neat ball playing out from the back.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 8 -- Preferred to regular skipper Gary Cahill, Rudiger put in a solid shift at centre-back. Dominant defensively and mobile going forward, like Christensen, the 24-year old Germany international represents Chelsea's future, and on this evidence that looks very bright indeed.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- Celebrating his 27th birthday, Moses had a decent game at right wing-back though most of Chelsea's play went down the left flank.
MF Marcos Alonso, 8 -- Given the freedom of the left flank by a yielding Huddersfield midfield, Alonso made capital out of the opportunity. Assisted Willian's headed goal with a fine cross and another cross was worked up by the Brazilian for Pedro to rifle home Chelsea's third.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- A stealthy controlling force in Chelsea's midfield, Kante's positional play saw Huddersfield closed down time and again. Made Huddersfield striker Steve Mounie into a spectator for his entire time on the pitch.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 8 -- If there was one player in Conte's starting XI who had a point to prove it was Bakayoko, who had come under some fierce criticism after a succession of poor games. The 23-year old imposed himself in midfield and cut a mobile figure when getting forward ensuring he was in the right place at the right time to put Chelsea 1-0 up. Bakayoko's shot did take a heavy deflection on its way into the Huddersfield net, but own-goal or not credit has to go to the Blues player.
FW Willian 8 -- Willian's starts under Conte continue to be few and far between, but the Brazil international has retained his appetite for creative play and his eye for goal remains keen. A deft through ball found Bakayoko for Chelsea's opener, and a combination of speed and awareness found him where Morata would surely have been to head home Alonso's cross from close range for the Blues second goal. Unselfishly cued Pedro up for the Spaniard's fine strike.
FW Pedro, 8 -- Like Willian, Pedro has also found starts in short supply of late, and given his chance like his teammate, the Spain international acquitted himself superbly. Effervescent running off and on the ball ensured Huddersfield's defence were on the back foot from the first whistle. Pedro loves a shot on goal from the edge of the penalty area and drove a fine effort from distance beyond Lossl.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- Playing as Chelsea's central striker, Hazard's pace and skill on the ball continually posed problems for Huddersfield's backline. Linked up superbly well with both Willian and Pedro but for all the endeavour couldn't cap a fine man-of-the-match performance with a goal. Sensibly withdrawn for the final phase of the game by Conte who will want his talisman as fresh as possible for the busy festive fixture schedule that lies ahead.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 6 -- Will have been disappointed not to have been started in place of Morata, but didn't provide any evidence when given 20 minutes by Conte to suggest he merited inclusion.
MF Danny Drinkwater, NR -- Replaced Kante for the final phase of the game and brought fresh legs and impetus to Chelsea's midfield.
DF Ethan Ampadu, NR -- Replaced Christensen for the last 10 minutes and slotted seamlessly into Chelsea's back three. Not bad for a 17-year old!
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco