Chelsea 3 Newcastle United 1
- Kevin Friend
Chelsea 3 Newcastle United 1
Hazard was on target twice at Stamford Bridge, his first arriving less than ten minutes after Dwight Gayle – brought back into the starting line-up at the expense of Joselu – had given United a lead they had merited at the time.
The Blues, however, upped the ante as the first half wore on. Alvaro Morata’s close-range header made sure they led heading into the interval, with the Magpies looking increasingly vulnerable.
And the reigning Premier League champions made sure of a fifth successive home victory thanks to their outstanding player on the day, Hazard converting a late penalty after Victor Moses was fouled inside the area.
Having rewarded the Magpies for a bright start at Old Trafford a fortnight previously, Gayle repeated the trick at Stamford Bridge, netting the opening goal of the game 12 minutes in. Marcos Alonso’s mis-control allowed the ball to roll into Jacob Murphy’s path, and Thibaut Courtois’ attempted challenge only succeeded in setting up Gayle, who calmly found the net to give United a deserved advantage.
Chelsea looked a little shaky early on, but they were quick to respond after falling behind. Karl Darlow spread himself superbly to deny Hazard after the Belgian had been put through one on one, before Andreas Christensen clipped the far post after meeting N’Golo Kanté’s dinked cross.
Newcastle’s advantage was beginning to look a fragile one, and sure enough, parity was restored midway through the first half. Florian Lejeune stuck out a leg to prevent Morata from getting a touch to César Azpilicueta’s cross, but – in doing so – he opened the door for Hazard, who produced a confident finish from 12 yards.
The Blues were looking dangerous every time they attacked, and they capped off a quick-fire turnaround just after the half-hour mark. Moses was afforded the space in which to swing in a cross from the right, and Morata ghosted between Lejeune and Chancel Mbemba to nod the ball home.
With Antonio Conte’s side continuing to probe, the break perhaps came at an appropriate time for Newcastle. Just two minutes into the second half, though, only a fine Mbemba challenge kept the scoreline as it was, Morata having looked poised to convert another Moses delivery.
Comfortably Chelsea’s most threatening player, however, was Hazard. The Belgian twice took aim as the hour-mark passed by – testing Darlow with his second attempt – then, after playing a neat one-two with Danny Drinkwater, he just lost his composure at the last moment, the Magpies’ keeper having done well to narrow the angle.
15 minutes from time, though, it was Hazard who put the outcome beyond doubt. A back-tracking Matt Ritchie tripped Moses inside the area, and the playmaker’s panenka penalty left Darlow with little chance.
He almost completed his hat-trick before being withdrawn – Darlow producing another impressive stop – and although Ciaran Clark and Jonjo Shelvey both came close to pulling a goal back for Newcastle late on, 3-1 was how it remained.