Chelsea back in Cruise control with win against Norwich

Chelsea 1 Norwich 0

Chelsea back in Cruise control with win against Norwich

Diego Costa may have ended his long barren run by scoring the decisive goal which sank Norwich, but Hazard, the diminutive Belgian, was the mastermind of a victory that ended a worrying run of three straight league defeats for the Blues.

It was Hazard who stepped up to the mark in the second-half of last season, when Costa started firing blanks and Cesc Fabregas went missing in action.

Hazard dragged Chelsea over the finishing line with five goals in nine games between March and May, that period when titles are won and lost.

But his failure to get going this season, allied with Costa’s lack of goals and the team’s well-documented defensive frailties, mean Chelsea have been languishing near the bottom of the table.

Yet the manager knows a top-four spot is not out of the question, and Hazard agreed.

“Today, we played very well and deserved to win. We want to keep going like this and finish, in the end, in the top four.”

Hazard does not dodge a challenge on the pitch, nor off it, confronting his own poor start to the season.

He was outstanding against Norwich, demonstrating the close control and creativity that won him the ‘footballer of the year’ award in May.

What happened between then and now?

“I didn’t start the season well, I know that. I tried to play my normal game, I gave everything in training and on the pitch, but ...” his voice trails off.

“I don’t know. I tried to find out why, but I don’t know. Sometimes, you have to keep going, to wait for better results. I hope I can get a lot of form back and help the team win games.”

The opposition is paying Hazard more attention, and the tendency of opponents to double up on him gives more space on the right flank, where Willian has been Chelsea’s most impressive attacking player thus far.

Hazard agrees: “It’s my fourth season now. I won a lot of trophies last season, so maybe the attention is more now. But I have to play with this.”

Is he more effective coming in from wide on the left, or playing as a number ten, as he did against Norwich?

“I like to play number ten, where I played when I was young and you have more space, but I also like to play as a left-winger. I just want to be on the pitch. And whether I play as number ten or on the flanks, it’s not a problem.”

He has discussed it with his manager. “Yes, we spoke before the Stoke game. I said to him: ‘Maybe we have to try to change something. If I can play number ten, we try.’

“I played a very good game in the cup at Stoke, and today it was the same. I don’t know if I have to play every game as a number 10.

“I just want to play.”

With all the talk of player mutiny at Stamford Bridge, the dialogue with Mourinho suggests that Hazard has a good relationship with his manager.

“Of course. I don’t have a problem with him. I heard a lot of things about this, but, no, everything is good with him. He is the best manager, the best for Chelsea and we hope we can win a lot of trophies together. Maybe not this season, because it will be difficult, but next season and onwards.”

It was the quick-thinking of Farbregas, from a free-kick, after Hazard was fouled in the 63rd minute, that set up Costa to curl a shot past John Ruddy, for his first goal in eight games.

The Spain striker had earlier missed two sitters, betraying his lack of confidence.

Norwich manager Alex Neil bemoaned that his side was denied a penalty, when Robbie Brady was bundled over with the game goalless, and knows he needs another striker, with Dieumerci Mbokani woeful.

He was replaced by Cameron Jerome. “We tried to add quality in summer, but a few fell through on deadline day. We were disappointed, but will try to strengthen in the transfer window.”

CHELSEA (4-2-3-1):

Begovic 7; Ivanovic 5, Zouma 6, Terry 7, Kenedy 6; Fabregas 7, Matic 7; Willian 7 (Ramires 86), Hazard 9 (Azpilicueta 89), Pedro 6 (Oscar 83); Costa 6.

NORWICH (4-5-1):

Ruddy 8; Wisdom 6, R Bennett 6, Bassong 8, Olsson 6; Redmond 6, Howson 6 (Hoolahan 73), Mulumbu 6 (Dorrans 73), O’Neil 6, Brady 7; Mbokani 4 (Jerome 73).


Craig Pawson.

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