Eden Hazard was the star of the show once again this afternoon as Chelsea defeated Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United 3-1 at Stamford Bridge.
An early goal for the visitors proved to be no more effective than the opener they managed at Old Trafford a couple of weeks ago, as just like Manchester United, Chelsea came from behind to beat Newcastle with ease. Antonio Conte opted for 3-5-2 today rather than sticking with the 3-4-3 that beat Swansea in midweek, allowing Eden Hazard’s ability to again be maximised in his ‘second striker’ position. The Belgian was simply too much for Newcastle, bagging a brace to help Chelsea to victory.
Dwight Gayle’s opening goal came as a result of some sloppy Chelsea defending which appeared to kick the Blues into their usual selves. After a bouncing ball was fought over by multiple players, Marcos Alonso was the man who had an opportunity to clear the danger but instead left a short back-pass for Thibaut Courtois which the goalkeeper could only push back into the danger zone. Gayle was left with a simple finish to send the away supporters crazy, but the goal proved to be more beneficial for the hosts.
Conte demanded his team pull themselves together immediately and got the exact response he was looking for. The Londoners surged forward in numbers and it was a poorly dealt with Cesar Azpilicueta cross that led to Chelsea’s equaliser. Eden Hazard pounced on the loose ball which had only been half-cleared and purposely thumped his strike into the floor so it flew over the Newcastle goalkeeper.
Twelve minutes later Chelsea were in front as the returning Victor Moses fired a ball across the six yard box for Alvaro Morata to grab himself another headed goal. Moses put in a strong performance today which was especially commendable due to only recently shaking off an injury. In a game such as today’s where the Blues enjoy the lion-share of possession, Moses’ attacking ability is of real benefit as was shown through this assist. Morata’s goal was Chelsea’s ninth headed strike of the season.
— Breathe Chelsea (@BreatheChels) December 2, 2017
Further attempts which were either narrowly wide or well-stopped by Darlow prevented Chelsea from getting the game completely tied up before half-time, though even after the break Benitez’s side never really looked like re-gaining the advantage they held after 15 minutes. It was Victor Moses who again managed to make Chelsea’s pressure count and create the opportunity for a third goal as he was brought down by Matt Ritchie on the edge of the area. The penalty decision was an easy one for Kevin Friend, and Hazard could hardly have made the spot-kick itself seem any easier.
Epitomising his brilliance throughout the afternoon, Hazard casually strolled up to the ball and chipped it slightly to the left of the goal with Newcastle’s Darlow diving the other way. Cheeky, confident, and ultimately skill of the highest quality.
The result leaves Chelsea level on points with second placed Manchester United ahead of their game at Arsenal this evening. The already busy fixture schedule only becomes more hectic over the coming weeks and the Blues face Atletico Madrid next on Tuesday night in their final Champions League group game. The manner of today’s win means confidence has grown further ahead of that tie. Conte’s men are enjoying their best form of the season so far at present and should Hazard continue with the relentlessly consistent displays he has been putting in so far this season, that good form won’t be coming to an end for some time yet.