London - Eden Hazard's double eased the mounting pressure on
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte as the English champions bounced back to winning
ways and moved into the Premier League top four with a 3-0 win over rock bottom
West Brom on Monday.
Three-goal defeats at the hands of Bournemouth and Watford
saw odds slashed on Conte becoming the latest Chelsea boss to be dismissed just
nine months on from winning the Premier League.
However, the Italian who claimed in the build-up to the game
it would be "stupid" to sack him was handed a reprieve by the
brilliance of Belgian Hazard, with Victor Moses also on target for the hosts.
"It's not easy to lose two games but now we are
back," said Hazard. "We are Chelsea, we are the champions, we have to
Chelsea climb into fourth with the gap between Manchester
United in second and fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur now just four points in the
race to join runway leaders Manchester City in next season's Champions League.
"Sometimes you lose. The most important thing is to be
together," added Hazard.
At the other end of the table, a third straight defeat is
another huge blow to West Brom's chances of survival with the Baggies now seven
points adrift of safety and just 11 games remaining.
"It's really difficult, you see some of the results go
against you and you're cut adrift," said West Brom goalkeeper Ben Foster.
"We have big games against other teams in the bottom
half of the table - they're really big six pointers."
Crucially for Chelsea ahead of a huge month on three fronts,
Conte's forward options were replenished as Olivier Giroud was handed his full
debut, whilst club record signing Alvaro Morata made his return after nearly a
month out with a back injury as a second-half substitute.
West Brom were dealt an injury blow themselves inside three
minutes when former Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge limped off to be replaced
by Jay Rodriguez.
Alan Pardew insisted he had no problem fielding Rodriguez,
who was charged by the FA on Thursday with using racist language towards
Brighton's Gaetan Bong last month, but has vowed to clear his name.
Rodriguez had by far the best chance of a bright start from
the visitors when he latched onto Moses's wayward defensive header, but dragged
his shot wide with just Thibaut Courtois to beat.
Giroud passed up a huge opportunity to mark his Stamford
Bridge bow in Chelsea blue with a goal when his weak right-footed effort was
easily smothered by Foster on 20 minutes.
But the French international made amends by providing the
pass for the opener as a neat one-two opened the space for Hazard to fire his
14th goal of the season into the bottom corner.
West Brom only had themselves to blame for not getting back
into the game early in the second period.
Salomon Rondon fired too close to Courtois after outmuscling
Andreas Christensen despite Chelsea claims for a foul on the Dane.
And, from the resulting corner, Jonny Evans headed inches
over the bar.
Moments later, Pardew's men were 2-0 down as Moses latched
onto Cesc Fabregas's deflected pass to slot low past Foster.
Hazard then capped a welcome win when he cut inside before
drilling a left-footed shot inside Foster's near post.
Conte's name was loudly sung by the Chelsea faithful in a
clear show of support for their manager.
However, far tougher tests await following Hull City's visit
in the FA Cup on Friday.
Firstly, Barcelona visit the Bridge in the Champions League
last 16 in eight days time before back-to-back Premier League visits to
Manchester to face United and City.