Hazard shreds Everton to fire Chelsea top
Chelsea went top of the Premier League after a brilliant 5-0 win over Everton yesterday gave them the biggest victory of Antonio Conte’s managerial tenure so far. Eden Hazard put in his best performance of the new era, scoring twice in an exceptional individual performance, with Marcos Alonso, Diego Costa and Pedro Rodriguez also on target.
Everton, sixth in the table, never looked capable of coping with Chelsea and collapsed under the weight of the home side’s repeated attacks. Chelsea currently look a world away from the problems of last season and this was the fourth awkward-looking game in a row in which they have made things look all too easy.
It helped greatly that they claimed an early lead for the fourth successive game, too, even if this performance was slightly more sluggish than the previous three in that respect.
Against Leicester City, it took seven minutes for them to score; against Manchester United, it was one; against Southampton it was six, and here it was 19.
Hazard struck in a manner that has become increasingly familiar since the start of the season, cutting in from the left wing and hitting a low, bouncing shot that caught goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg unsighted. There was a possibility that Pedro was offside, but the goal was allowed to stand.
Chelsea wasted no time extending their advantage, with just 24 seconds of playing time elapsing between their first and second goals. Conte halted an Everton counterattack in its tracks and after brilliantly wriggling between two players, Hazard played the ball through to Pedro on the right.
The winger looked to square the ball to Costa, but with the pass arriving slightly behind the striker, the oncoming Alonso roared at him to get out of the way and thundered a shot between Stekelenburg’s legs.
It was the Spanish wing-back’s first Chelsea goal following his close-season switch from Fiorentina.
Everton manager Ronald Koeman’s attempt to mirror Conte’s new three-man defence had clearly failed and it took him just 36 minutes to abandon it. Bryan Oviedo was hauled off for Kevin Mirallas, although it did not actually help. Chelsea continued their onslaught. Victor Moses smashed the post with a brilliantly hit shot on the halfvolley, before Costa made it 3-0. Nemanja Matic flicked on Hazard’s corner on 43 minutes and the striker slammed home at the back post. The best was still to come, however, as Chelsea’s best player moved onto another level.
On 56 minutes, Hazard surged forward down the right touchline and flicked the ball to Pedro, who sent it back to him with a wonderfully deft back-heel. The Belgian homed in on goal, before accurately driving the ball past Stekelenburg with his left foot.
It was his seventh goal in 11 league games, marking his best start to a season since moving to Stamford Bridge from Lille in 2012. Chelsea then went on to complete their best result of the season so far as Pedro got the goal his performance deserved by volleying in from close range after Stekelenburg had thwarted Hazard.
It marked an impressive escalation in results, with Chelsea having won their last three home games 3-0, 4-0 and now 5-0.
Conte brought on John Terry at the end and it was a measure of the hosts’ dominance-and Everton’s haplessness-that even the veteran centre-back was able to join in with their attacks. — AFP