Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Hazard thrills in Chelsea's Arsenal hammering

Published:Sunday | February 5, 2017 | 2:00 AM
Chelsea's Eden Hazard (right) avoids a tackle by Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi during the English Premier League match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, yesterday. Chelsea won 3-1.

LONDON (AP):

Fusing strength, aggression and pace, Eden Hazard received the ball inside Chelsea's own half and just kept on running, fending off every frail barrier of Arsenal's resistance.

Laurent Koscielny was the first opponent brushed aside and Francis Coquelin was left spinning, trying forlornly to put in a tackle before slipping to the turf.

Hazard just continued to zip forward. Koscielny had darted back in defence, but was as ineffective in immobilising Hazard a second time. The fleet-footed winger wove his way past the Arsenal captain and then outmuscled Shkodran Mustafi before slotting a low shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.

"To dribble like I did," Hazard said, "I try to do this every game, but it's not like this every game."

It was a mesmerising solo goal that thrilled Chelsea fans, coming between Marcos Alonso's header and Cesc F‡bregas' lob into an empty net in a 3-1 victory for the Premier League leaders over Arsenal. Owner Roman Abramovich was in awe, high-fiving those around him in the executive seating. Manager Antonio Conte flung himself into the crowd behind the dugout, swarmed by fans.

A goal of such exceptional quality embodied Chelsea's transformation since a 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture in September. That defeat saw an eight-point chasm open up between Chelsea, then in eighth place, and front-runner Manchester City. Now, Conte is well placed to end his first season as Chelsea manager by lifting the Premier League trophy, with his team 12 points in front of north London clubs Tottenham and Arsenal.

"It's important to keep our antenna very high," Conte said, "because in my career as a footballer, I won a lot, but I lost a lot."

WENGER LOSING A LOT

It is Arsene Wenger losing a lot at the moment, with his Arsenal side beaten in four of their last nine league games.

"We lost many balls in positions where you cannot afford to lose it when you play against a team good on counterattack," Wenger said.

Coming four days after a home loss to Watford, this was another unsettling day for a bedraggled Arsenal and Wenger, who was forced to watch from the stands as he continued his four-match touchline ban for pushing a fourth official.