Hazard a perfect 10 in single-handedly leading Chelsea past West Ham
LONDON -- Eden Hazard produced a virtuoso individual performance as Chelsea beat West Ham 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Monday to move up to third in the Premier League and boost their hopes of Champions League qualification.
Hazard has returned to the form of autumn, when he was the best player in the Premier League. Maurizio Sarri also kept faith in Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi to maintain their recent form and was rewarded. Thanks to the stumbles of their rivals, Chelsea's top-four charge suddenly looks promising again.
Chelsea should have been up much more than 1-0 at half-time, and this dangerous West Ham side caused several moments of panic before Hazard finally put the game away. Sarri's men are winning again, but they still need to find their clinical touch.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Sarri gave Loftus-Cheek and Hudson-Odoi another opportunity to contribute when it matters for Chelsea and it paid dividends. The presence of both also gives greater balance to his much-maligned system. Finally, his substitutes made an impact, with Ross Barkley creating Hazard's second.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kepa Arrizabalaga, 7 -- Had so little to do in the first half that the isolated Javier Hernandez was substituted at the break. Saved well from Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson in the second half, though, and distributed the ball impressively throughout.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Seems to be developing nice chemistry with both Hudson-Odoi and N'Golo Kante on Chelsea's right flank, timing his forward surges intelligently. Also kept Felipe in check for the most part defensively, and his overall stamina remains remarkable.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 8 -- His early intensity helped Chelsea get a tight grip on play in the first half and his close attentions ensured Hernandez was a non-factor. Did allow Marko Arnautovic to drift off him to set up a chance for Lanzini, but was otherwise solid.
DF David Luiz, 7 -- Managed to physically bully Hernandez out of the game in the first half. Had more trouble once Arnautovic moved to the point of a more fluid West Ham attack, particularly when dragged out of his most comfortable position in the centre of defence.
DF Emerson Palmieri, 7 -- His mobility on the left keeps Chelsea's attacks functioning at a higher tempo than when Marcos Alonso starts, even if his crossing continues to leave a little to be desired. Also did well to deflect one Arnautovic header just wide as West Ham pushed for an equaliser.
MF N'Golo Kante, 8 -- As has become his trademark, did absolutely everything absolutely everywhere. Broke up attacks to keep West Ham largely pinned back, but also almost scored a brilliant goal after a sublime touch to turn Angelo Ogbonna, and also played in Azpilicueta with a slick back-heel.
MF Jorginho, 7 -- Was a big reason West Ham were unable to get the ball to Hernandez in the first half, astutely intercepting passes and keeping Chelsea's own passages of possession moving forward. Had a bit more trouble in the second half once the visitors re-jigged their attack.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 9 -- It's becoming more and more obvious by the game that Sarri's midfield is galaxies better when Loftus-Cheek is in it from the start. His ability to carry the ball upfield and pick a pass under pressure helped unlock the best of Hazard and he frequently threatened to test Lukasz Fabianski himself.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 7 -- Not quite as sparkling as he was in his first Premier League start, though there were still enough flashes here to justify him playing a prominent role in the final stretch of Chelsea's season. Fabianski tipped his best effort over the bar and Barkley couldn't quite connect with his inviting low cross to the back post.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 7 -- Played like he had a point to prove after losing his place to Olivier Giroud, and though he didn't find the net, this was a much improved showing. He linked play nicely and drifted into dangerous positions, latching onto one delightful Hazard pass to crash a shot off the post from a tight angle.
FW Eden Hazard, 10 -- Produced the kind of individual master class that will punctuate his Chelsea legacy if he completes an increasingly likely move to Real Madrid this summer. Single-handedly dismantled West Ham's entire defence to break the deadlock in sensational style and had the visitors petrified whenever he got the ball -- which was often. Having lit up the game, it was only fair that he applied the finishing touch to Chelsea's win.
MF Ross Barkley, 7 -- Brought on to provide fresh legs for Loftus-Cheek, he couldn't turn in Hudson-Odoi's most dangerous delivery but showed speed of thought and foot to find Hazard for Chelsea's second.
FW Olivier Giroud, 7 -- Will rightly feel aggrieved at losing his place to Higuain after scoring against Brighton, but did not show it as he caused West Ham plenty of problems in the final stages.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Introduced in place of Hudson-Odoi for the final few minutes, his most notable contribution was a low cross that came close to finding Giroud.