London - Eden
Hazard scored a sublime solo goal as Premier League leaders Chelsea
thrust a dagger into Arsenal's title aspirations with a 3-1 victory at
Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
The Belgian winger left a trail of defenders in his wake to double
Chelsea's lead in the 53rd minute, in between a contentious header by
Marcos Alonso and a late lob from Arsenal old boy Cesc Fabregas.
It was Chelsea's 11th home victory in succession and their 16th win
in 18 league games, stretching their lead over third-place Arsenal to a
huge 12 points with 14 games of the season remaining.
"I think we are showing we deserve to stay on top of the table," said Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
"I am very pleased for my players. In every session they show me great attitude and great will to fight and win this league."
Chelsea have been close to unplayable since Conte changed their
system to a 3-4-3 during their 3-0 loss at Arsenal on September 24 and
it seems only a matter of time until they are crowned champions.
For Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who watched from the stands as he
served the third game of a four-match touchline ban, his side's season
is following a wearily familiar pattern.
Arsenal have lost their last five games at the Bridge and had
conceded 13 unanswered goals prior to Olivier Giroud's stoppage-time
Beaten for the fourth time in nine league games, they once again face
the prospect of a run-in given suspense only by the tussle for
Champions League places.
Wenger felt Alonso's goal was "100 percent a foul" on Hector
Bellerin, but conceded: "We were really naive and not clinical in our
defending. Then Chelsea looked the better side."
With a raft of midfielders unavailable, Wenger was obliged to start
with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain alongside Francis Coquelin in the middle,
while Theo Walcott replaced Giroud in attack.
Arsenal had conceded two goals in the first 13 minutes of Tuesday's 2-1 loss at home to Watford.
They almost caught Chelsea cold here, Alex Iwobi curling wide after Thibaut Courtois overhit a pass towards David Luiz.
But after Gary Cahill had headed into the ground and over the bar at
the other end, Chelsea went ahead in the 13th minute with a goal that
left Arsenal's fans fuming.
Pedro sent a cross into the box from the right that Diego Costa
headed against the bar at the near post, sending the ball spinning into
As Bellerin got himself in position to head it away, and with Walcott
watching on impassively, Alonso flew in, cleaning his fellow Spaniard
out with his forearm and heading the ball home.
Referee Martin Atkinson allowed the goal to stand and Arsenal's
disappointment was compounded by the sight of a dazed Bellerin being led
down the tunnel, with Gabriel taking his place.
Chelsea were buoyant, Costa driving a shot into the side-netting and
Pedro forcing Petr Cech to push the ball behind from Alonso's accurate
But Arsenal ended the first half strongly, Courtois producing a
stunning one-handed save to turn Gabriel's header over the bar and then
dropping onto a tame effort by Mesut Ozil.
It took a last-ditch tackle by Laurent Koscielny to prevent Hazard
scampering clear early in the second half, but when the Chelsea number
10 picked up the ball minutes later there was no getting it back.
After striding onto a loose ball in the centre circle, he beat
Koscielny, shrugged off Coquelin, leaving him flat on his back, and then
outfoxed Koscielny again before squeezing a shot past Cech.
On the touchline, Conte celebrated with even greater abandon than usual, leaping into the crowd.
There were flickers from Arsenal, Courtois clawing away a deft header
from substitute Danny Welbeck, before Fabregas lobbed in from 25 yards
after Cech shanked the ball straight to him.
Giroud reduced the arrears, heading in from Nacho Monreal's cross.