Hazard too good for Brighton as Chelsea win comfortably
Maurizio Sarri’s side went three points clear of Arenal.
Eden Hazard masterminded Chelsea’s 2-1 Premier League win at Brighton, teeing up Pedro before netting himself at the Amex Stadium.
The Belgium star laid on an assist for a personal record fourth consecutive league game, then fired his eighth league goal of an already hugely-fruitful campaign.
Hazard has now had a hand in 17 goals in 16 Premier League appearances for Chelsea this term – last season he only mustered a combined 16 goals and assists, in some 34 turns.
Solly March’s neat half-volley set up a tense finish, but Chelsea still remained worthy winners on the south coast.
Hazard actually ended a seven-match league run without a goal, but even amid that barren run he has still been serving them up on a plate for his team-mates.
The 27-year-old’s set up for Pedro’s tap-in even leaves him as Europe’s current assist king, with his nine tee-ups topping the charts across the continent’s big five leagues.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri has challenged Hazard to hit 40 goals this season.
The peerless creator may well hit that number in goals and assists combined, and that might just satisfy the Blues’ taskmaster Italian manager.
Hazard’s first meaningful contribution yielded the opener, the peerless Belgian twisting and turning Brighton’s defence into enough of a spin that all Pedro had to do was tap his team-mate’s rolled pass into the back of the net.
Chelsea were so imperious so quickly that Mateo Kovacic lazily sprayed an errant pass across the face of goal to gift Solly March a genuine scoring chance.
The Brighton midfielder drilled a strike on target, but his 20-yard effort had nowhere near enough venom to trouble Kepa in the Chelsea goal.
Momentary aberration negotiated, Chelsea re-calibrated course, and quickly doubled their lead.
Leon Balogun passed straight to Willian as Chelsea’s regimented defensive shape paid further dividend, and the Blues’ Brazil forward sent Hazard scampering clear.
Even from some 40 yards out, everyone inside the Amex just knew Hazard would score – but no one more than the magisterial goal creator himself.
Hazard strode on and swept the ball past Brighton’s bystander goalkeeper Mat Ryan, to cement victory with little more than half an hour on the clock.
Marcos Alonso stepped out of Chelsea’s cruise control to drum a fine 20-yard effort against the post just past the hour.
But just when Chelsea settled in for an armchair ride to the final whistle, up popped March at the far post to turn home a neat half-volley and cut Brighton’s deficit in two.
Marcos Alonso rode his luck when tugging down March just outside the box, escaping with a booking purely because of David Luiz’s covering presence.