Chelsea a one-man team as Hazard singlehandedly beats West Brom
Chelsea returned to winning ways at Stamford Bridge with a 3-0 victory over bottom-of-the-table West Bromwich Albion. Eden Hazard starred for the Blues with a two-goal, man-of-the match display and Victor Moses also netted in a much-needed win that eased the pressure on manager Antonio Conte.
Having been routed recently by Bournemouth and Watford, an embarrassing defeat to West Brom might have spelled the end for Conte, but this time his Chelsea side rolled up their sleeves and battled hard against a brutish Baggies side who played with plenty of intent throughout the game. Three points, a clean sheet and a glance at the Premier League table makes life seem not so bad for Blues supporters, whose team sits in fourth place and only three points behind second-placed Manchester United.
Chelsea looked disjointed in the first half and had West Brom been less wasteful with the chances they created, the outcome of the game could have been very different. The midfield combination of N'Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas looked suspect up against physical opponents.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Chelsea's starting XI had a thrown-together appearance that initially appeared not to bode well for Conte, but thanks largely to the wizardry of Hazard, the result went the way of the Italian, who must take credit for the spirit his players displayed throughout the game.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Looked shaky in the first half, suspect distribution under pressure made for some nervy moments when West Brom's big men pressed forward. More assured after the break and made a couple of decent saves.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Skipper for the night, Azpilicueta had a busier evening than the scoreline might suggest. Used his pace and positional awareness well to keep tabs on Salomon Rondon and helped maintain peace when West Brom frequently resorted to underhand tactics to try to win the ball.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- Restored to the Blues back line following time on the sidelines with a hamstring strain, Christensen added a degree of composure that had been missing in his absence. Unfazed by the physicality of West Brom's play when knocked off the ball a couple of times early on, the only real concern for the 21-year-old came when he pulled up late on and had to be substituted.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- The Germany international fully immersed himself in the battle for the ball and needed every ounce of his strength and stature to cope with the threat posed by West Brom, particularly in the first half when they had the measure of Chelsea in midfield and pressed the Blues back.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- Didn't make much of an impression up against Kieran Gibbs and Chris Brunt, but did work the move on the right flank that culminated with a deflected Fabregas flick falling into his path that he swept home to give Chelsea an all-important two-goal cushion.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- Struggled to contain Rondon, who was able to cause plenty of problems for Chelsea's defence as a result. Excellent fitness levels saw the France international through the contest, though, as he eventually wrestled back control of the midfield.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 6 -- Looked lightweight defensively and left Kante with too much work to do. Creatively showed some nice touches and was at the hub of Moses' goal, which did much to kill off West Brom's fight.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 5 -- Defensively, struggled to cope with Matt Philips and was the root cause of Chelsea's early problems containing West Brom. More effective when going forward and only a brilliant Ben Foster save denied him a goal.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Completely overshadowed by the genius of Hazard. Linked up well with Fabregas, but like his countryman looked ill-equipped for the fight. Replaced by Willian for the final 10 minutes of the game.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- Made Chelsea look like a one-man team at times with his brilliance. Stood up to some thuggish tackles and in the first instance effectively created a chance for himself to score the Blues' opener. A sublime finish following a trademark jinking run brought a second goal for the Belgium international, which left applauding supporters hoping he can show this devastating type of form next week when Barcelona visit the Bridge.
FW Olivier Giroud, 8 -- It's been said Chelsea need a swashbuckling centre-forward and Giroud certainly played and looked the part on his home debut. Always involved, he missed a decent chance to score early on but atoned by playing Hazard in for the opening goal. Head swathed in a bandage following a meeting with Ahmed Hegazi's studs, the France international was further wounded by a Jonny Evans kick to the leg before the break, which would lead to his substitution on the hour mark.
FW Alvaro Morata, 7 -- Seemingly recovered from his mysterious back ailment, Morata looked full of energy and enthusiasm when replacing Giroud. Provided the assist for Hazard's second goal.
DF Gary Cahill, NR -- Replaced Christensen in the 74th minute and used his experience to good effect in what remained a physical contest to the final whistle.
FW Willian NR -- Replaced Pedro late on and used his speed and skill to good effect against a tiring West Brom side.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco