Hazard in heaven but Sarri stays on terra fi rma
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
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