Eden Hazard scored twice, including a contender for goal of the season, to give Chelsea a vital 2-0 win over West Ham that moves them up to third in the Premier League.
Hazard showed superb skill to get past three West Ham players before lashing home (24), and got another with a cute touch and finish late on (90) to wrap up the points.
West Ham had their share of chances to equalise in the second half, but the result means Chelsea have a three-point cushion over Arsenal in fifth, although they have played a game more. West Ham stay 11th, five points off the top seven.
Chelsea dominated the ball in the opening period, but had to wait until the 24th minute to cut West Ham open thanks to some Hazard brilliance, hours after it was reported on Sky Sports News that Real Madrid were increasingly confident of signing the Belgian in the summer.
Picking up the ball on the turn 45 yards out, Hazard took on Mark Noble and slalomed past Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena with a fine piece of skill before poking past Lukasz Fabianski with his left foot from 15 yards.
Moments later, Hazard nearly set up Gonzalo Higuain for a second as the Argentinian hit the post from an angle, and he was then denied by Ryan Fredericks’ superb block after the striker had controlled and shot from close range.
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Hazard was running the show, and had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down after Marko Arnautovic looked to have barged him to the ground.
The game opened up after the break as Manuel Lanzini forced a smart save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, while Aaron Cresswell struck just wide from range on the half volley with West Ham pushing hard for a leveller.
Barkley was then inches away from converting Callum Hudson-Odoi’s centre across the face of goal, and at the other end Emerson produced a vital block as Arnautovic looked to head home sub Robert Snodgrass’ wicked cross.
It was not entirely comfortable for Chelsea, but they got their two-goal cushion in the last minute as Hazard took down Barkley’s cross 10 yards out, before finding the bottom left corner past Fabianski on the half volley.
Maurizio Sarri: “When Hazard is able to play like this in matches, we’re very lucky as it’s easy to win the match. He’s able to make the difference.
“[£100m] is too cheap in this market. I have no idea but we have seen it’s very hard to change Hazard with another player.”
Manuel Pellegrini: “When a player with the quality of Eden Hazard, you know he can make different things. Going through four players is not easy. But we could have done better in the way we defended that goal and our play.
“We changed things and we had a chance to draw. I saw the personality in the second half but in the first half, no.”
Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 13 home league meetings with West Ham (W9 D4) since a 2-3 loss in September 2002.
West Ham have scored just one goal in their last seven away Premier League games (D1 L6), a Mark Noble penalty in a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.
Chelsea have lost just one of their last 20 home Premier League matches (W12 D7 L1), a 0-1 defeat to Leicester City in December 2018.
Hazard has scored 19 goals in all competitions in 2018/19 – his joint-best tally in a season for Chelsea (level with 2014/15).
Hazard has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last 10 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge (6 goals, 5 assists).
Hazard has been directly involved in more Premier League goals than any other player this season (16 goals, 12 assists).
Ruben Loftus-Cheek has had a hand in four goals in his last three Premier League games for Chelsea (2 goals, 2 assists), after a run of 11 appearances without a goal involvement in the competition.
Man of the match – Eden Hazard
Not much of an argument here. On the day his future was questioned again, the Belgian completely ran the show.
Stats-wise, he had the most shots, dribbles completed, chances created and passes into the box of all the players, but the first goal was a joy to behold. His low centre of gravity will be giving West Ham’s defence nightmares for a few weeks. He is so, so good.
“You feel sad in some ways that there is so much talk of Real Madrid,” said Gary Neville on MNF after the game. “If this is his last five league games, it’s a real problem for the Premier League.
Jamie Carragher has compared Chelsea’s fight to retain Eden Hazard to when Barcelona came calling for Luis Suarez.
“I don’t think you can ever stop players moving to Real Madrid and Barcelona. I think most players see that as the pinnacle, and it’s happened at both Manchester United and Liverpool.
“It’s sad as I love watching him week in, week out. But I almost feel like Hazard has to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona.”
Chelsea now go to Slavia Prague on Thursday for their Europa League quarter-final, first leg, before travelling to Anfield to face Liverpool on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League at 4pm; Kick-off is at 4.30pm. West Ham go to Manchester United on Saturday in the Premier League at 5.30pm.