Five-star Chelsea go on top of Pre­mier­ship

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Eden Hazard's daz­zling dou­ble sent Chelsea surg­ing to the top of the English Pre­mier League with an elec­tri­fy­ing 5-0 vic­tory over Ever­ton yes­ter­day.

Not only was it Chelsea's fifth con­sec­u­tive league win since a 3-0 hum­bling by Arse­nal, but An­to­nio Conte's side has scored 16 times with­out re­ply while ruth­lessly rolling over op­po­nents.

With fi­nesse and ex­u­ber­ance, Chelsea ripped through a brit­tle Ever­ton side that had the league's se­cond-best de­fen­sive record be­fore its Stam­ford Bridge col­lapse.

Diego Costa and Pe­dro Ro­driguez also scored, and if they con­tinue to com­bine so ef­fec­tively up front with Hazard — and the de­fen­sive reliance is main­tained — Conte could be end­ing his first sea­son in English foot­ball with sil­ver­ware.

There's a long way to go, but the trans­for­ma­tion of Chelsea from the mis­er­able end of Jose Mour­inho's reign a year ago has been im­mense.

Chelsea had only three wins and 11 points af­ter 11 games in last sea­son's fee­ble ti­tle de­fense. At the same stage this year, Chelsea is on 25 points with eight vic­to­ries, although Arse­nal can go top on Sun­day by beat­ing Tot­ten­ham.

"We don't want to send a mes­sage to the other teams," said Chelsea man­ager An­to­nio Conte, a ti­tle win­ner at Ju­ven­tus. "For now it's im­por­tant to send a mes­sage to our­selves ... we are work­ing a lot to im­prove and this is the right way."

The sym­bol of Chelsea's re­vival is surely Hazard, whose morale was at a low ebb last year, but was look­ing even more dan­ger­ous than in Chelsea's ti­tle-win­ning sea­son of 2014-15 when the winger was voted English foot­ball player of the year.

The only sur­prise was that Chelsea took un­til the 19th minute to go in front, hav­ing scored in the open­ing seven min­utes of the last three games.

On the left flank, Costa passed to Hazard and he cut past Ash­ley Wil­liams and Sea­mus Cole­man be­fore strik­ing.

Within 25 sec­onds of the restart, the vis­i­tors con­ceded again, as Hazard and Pe­dro com­bined to set up Mar­cos Alonso, who struck through goal­keeper Maarten Steke­len­burg's legs for his first Chelsea goal.

Only the post de­nied Vic­tor Moses but Costa did grab Chelsea's third be­fore half­time af­ter Ne­manja Matic was left un­marked to head a corner into the path of the striker.

By that stage, Koe­man had al­ready re­verted to a four-man de­fense hav­ing aban­doned the three-man back­line that has worked so suc­cess­fully for Conte dur­ing the win­ning run.

The pick of the goals came 10 min­utes af­ter the break, with a move started and com­pleted by Hazard af­ter a one-two with Moses. Hazard weaved into the penalty area, past Ramiro Fu­nes Mori and Wil­liams, be­fore strik­ing past Steke­len­burg.

Costa was the cre­ator of the fifth, win­ning the ball around the half­way line and dart­ing down the field un­chal­lenged be­fore pass­ing to Hazard. Although Hazard was de­nied a hat trick by Steke­len­burg's save, Pe­dro was on hand to tap into the empty net.

West Ham con­tin­ued its un­sta­ble start to life at the Olympic Sta­dium as Stoke came from be­hind to earn a 1-1 draw in the English Pre­mier League.

Crowd trou­ble has marred the club's sum­mer move to the 2012 Olympic venue, but it was on­field prob­lems that left home fans frus­trated this time.

Ex­tra se­cu­rity mea­sures con­tained any drama off the field, how­ever the vis­i­tor's re­silience en­sured it wasn't a per­fect af­ter­noon for West Ham.

Slaven Bilic's side looked to be on its way to vic­tory when Michail An­to­nio's header was de­flected into his own net by Stoke's Glenn Whe­lan in the 65th.

But a goal­keep­ing er­ror from Adrian al­lowed Stoke back into the game 10 min­utes later.

The West Ham stop­per came need­lessly charg­ing off his line, al­low­ing Jonathan Wal­ters to cen­ter for Bo­jan Kr­kic to vol­ley into an empty net.

Marten de Roon headed a late equal­izer as Mid­dles­brough snatched a 1-1 draw against Manch­ester City in the English Pre­mier League.

Ser­gio Aguero's 150th City goal just be­fore half­time looked like earn­ing the hosts an­other three points but Pep Guardi­ola's team paid the price for fail­ing to kill off the game.

City had 18 shots to Mid­dles­brough's none in the first half but the team's in­ten­sity dropped af­ter the break and it was caught out when De Roon headed in Ste­wart Down­ing's cross in stop­page time.

Vic­tor Anichebe in­spired bot­tom-place Sun­der­land to its first suc­cess in the English Pre­mier League at the 11th at­tempt, scor­ing the opener and win­ning a penalty to beat Bournemouth 2-1 yes­ter­day.

Anichebe, whose only no­table con­tri­bu­tion this sea­son had been a Twit­ter gaffe af­ter the re­cent de­feat at West Ham, was handed a first league start by un­der-pres­sure man­ager David Moyes.

And the striker re­sponded with his first goal in 18 months, to can­cel out Dan Gosling's opener, be­fore win­ning the penalty that Jer­main De­foe dis­patched.

The win was all the more re­mark­able given Sun­der­land's Steven Pien­aar was sent off with half an hour to go for a chal­lenge on Ju­nior Stanis­las.

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard tries to get past Ever­ton’s Tom Clev­er­ley

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