Belfast Telegraph

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Conte full of praise for Hazard after giving Blues fresh new dimension in striking role

Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea

By Andy Hampson

Antonio Conte believes Eden Hazard is thriving playing right up front for Chelsea.

The Belgium playmaker was outstanding playing alongside striker Alvaro Morata in the champions' 1-1 draw at Liverpool on Saturday.

The hosts struggled to contain the 26-year-old, who often dropped into midfield to gain possession, and manager Conte feels his flexibility is bringing a new dimension to the side.

The Italian said: "The start of this season was full of trouble with Eden because he had an injury with the national team and we started the season without him.

"Now I think Eden is in really good form and I think he likes to play as a striker. There is a good link with Alvaro and for me also it's a great opportunity to play with two different systems.

"Against Qarabag we played 3-4-2-1 and here we started with a 3-5-2. It's important we don't lose our identity in both cases."

For all Hazard's brilliance, it was the impact of Conte's substitutions late in the game that ensured the visitors claimed a point.

Chelsea were heading for defeat after their former forward Mohamed Salah struck in the 65th minute, his 15th goal since joining Liverpool in the summer.

Chelsea, who started with a defensive midfield of N'Golo Kante, Danny Drinkwater and Tiemoue Bakayoko, began to change shape after Cesc Fabregas was introduced on 74 minutes. Pedro came on soon after and another substitute, Willian, claimed the equaliser five minutes from time.

There was debate over whether the Brazilian's long-range lobbed leveller was intended or whether it was meant as a cross, but Conte felt it was the least his side deserved.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was frustrated not to have held on for victory but refused to enter debate on whether such results were further fuelling the confidence of leaders Manchester City.

Klopp, who also complained he was unable to make a substitution immediately prior to Chelsea's equaliser, said: "In our situation, and for all the other clubs, if we think about Manchester City we would be really crazy.

"I think it's really important you have your own targets and the right targets, then you can be a confident person. A confident person can reach a lot.

"I didn't think a second after the game about Manchester City. What I really thought was that we should have won have won the game, and then we would have three points more."

Belfast Telegraph

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