Hazard in heaven but Sarri stays on terra fi rma

The Observer - Sport - - Football Premier League -

him main­tain that his team are not ti­tle con­tenders.

“I can­not change my mind be­cause of one match,” Chelsea’s man­ager said. “My tar­get is to be the best team in Eng­land, but not in one month. Maybe one sea­son. Maybe a lit­tle more. But at the mo­ment, in my opin­ion, Liver­pool and Manch­ester City are bet­ter than us.” Sarri is striv­ing for per­fec­tion and it brought him lim­ited sat­is­fac­tion to hear that he has em­u­lated Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardi­ola and Craig Shake­speare by be­com­ing the fourth man­ager to win his fi rst fi ve Premier League games. He was more in­ter­ested in the poor de­fend­ing that led to Bamba’s opener in the 16th minute, es­pe­cially af­ter warn­ing his play­ers about Cardiff’s threat from set- pieces, and it summed up his mood that he re­sponded to Hazard’s hat- trick by point­ing out that Chelsea’s main man still needs to spend more time near the op­po­si­tion’s goal.

“I think Hazard can im­prove more,” Sarri said. “When he went to the ball in our half and touched the ball fi ve or six times, in his ac­tions he spent a lot of en­ergy. I think Hazard can score 30 or 35 goals.”

Not that Sarri was minded to fo­cus too much on the neg­a­tives when it came to analysing Hazard’s per­for­mance. Chelsea had toiled be­fore the for­ward’s seven- minute burst at the end of the fi rst half and it had threat­ened to be­come an awk­ward af­ter­noon af­ter Cardiff’s fear­less start.

Neil Warnock’s side adopted a di­rect ap­proach, sur­pris­ing their il­lus­tri­ous hosts with the in­ten­sity of their high press, and the visi­tors sent the big men for­ward from the back when David Luiz need­lessly steamed into Danny Ward near the half­way line. Joe Ralls pumped a deep free- kick to­wards the far post, Mar­cos Alonso failed to pre­vent Sean Mor­ri­son from head­ing back across goal and Bamba cap­i­talised on slack mark­ing from Jorginho by vol­ley­ing past Kepa Ar­riz­a­bal­aga from close range.

The hosts sought an in­stant re­sponse and Etheridge, a for­mer Chelsea youth player, de­nied Ma­teo Ko­vacic with two ex­cel­lent stops. Yet while Cardiff de­fended with im­pres­sive dis­ci­pline for long spells, they could not con­tain Hazard. Play­ers of the Bel­gian’s stature tend to pick the lock even­tu­ally and he lo­cated Cardiff’s weak point by drift­ing in­side to com­bine with Olivier Giroud in the 37th minute. Joe Ben­nett’s chal­lenge was weak and Hazard pun­ished the left- back by beat­ing Etheridge from 20 yards.

Chelsea’s re­lief was im­mense and Giroud was in­volved again in the 44th minute, steer­ing Pe­dro’s cross to Hazard, who smug­gled the ball un­der­neath Etheridge. “He’s a good player, isn’t he? Warnock sighed. “He’s un­playable at times.”

To their credit, Cardiff re­fused to stop hunt­ing for their fi rst vic­tory since win­ning pro­mo­tion from the Cham­pi­onship last sea­son. Bobby Reid went close in the 67th minute and David Luiz was for­tu­nate not to con­cede a penalty af­ter col­lid­ing with Callum Pater­son.

Yet Sarri had the lux­ury of bring­ing Wil­lian off the bench and the Brazil­ian had a telling im­pact, surg­ing into the area in the 80th minute and win­ning a penalty af­ter tum­bling over Bamba’s lunge.

Hazard sent Etheridge the wrong way from the spot, and there was still time for Wil­lian to rub salt into Cardiff’s wounds.

Chelsea 4- 3- 3

Cardiff 4- 4- 1- 1

VICTORIA JONES/ PA

Eden Hazard scores his sec­ond to put Chelsea ahead at the end of a blis­ter­ing seven- minute spell late in the sec­ond half. He com­pleted his hat- trick from the penalty spot

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