Three talking points as Eden Hazard inspired Chelsea's fightback against Newcastle United
Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea came from behind to beat Newcastle United 3-1 in the lunchtime kick-off.
A shock looked to be on the cards when Dwight Gayle put the Magpies in front early on, but their joy was short-lived as the talismanic Belgian equalised nine minutes later.
Alvaro Morata made it 2-1 shortly afterwards before Hazard completed the scoring from the penalty spot in the second half.
Newcastle are now six Premier League games without a win, while Chelsea’s unbeaten run extends to seven matches.
Here are three talking points from an engrossing clash at Stamford Bridge…
World-class Hazard underlining his importance
Restored to the starting XI, Hazard was at his scintillating best against Newcastle. Chelsea had been left stunned when the visitors opened the scoring, but it didn’t take long for Hazard to come to the rescue. Like all world-class footballers, he found himself in the right place at the right time to pounce on a loose ball and power home the equaliser.
It was just the spark the Blues needed and they took control of the game with a second strike through Alvaro Morata shortly afterwards. Hazard continued to cause Newcastle all sorts of problems and it was no surprise when he got himself on the scoresheet for a second time to put the game to bed.
After Matt Ritchie had been penalised for a foul on Victor Moses, Hazard showed all the confidence in the world to dink the ball past goalkeeper Karl Darlow from the penalty spot.
Hazard had to spend time on the sidelines through injury earlier in the campaign, but now is firing on all cylinders. His fourth and fifth goals of the season have kept Chelsea nicely positioned in third place.
Rafa Benitez facing a challenge to turn the tide
After a promising start to life back in the Premier League, Newcastle have since embarked on an alarming run of results that has seen them tumble down the table. This defeat, although not unexpected given the quality of the opposition, extended their winless streak to six matches.
As they did at Manchester United three weeks ago, the Magpies took an early lead. However, once again they could not hold on as their opponents’ class told.
Boss Rafa Benitez is philosophical enough to know that these results will not determine whether Newcastle’s stay in the top-flight is a brief one, yet their downfall has been their inability to take points off the teams around them.
Although they fought back manfully to claim a point against West Bromwich Albion in midweek, defeats against the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and Burnley have undermined their cause. Despite what some supporters may think, survival is all that matters for Newcastle this season.
Morata filling the void left by Diego Costa
When it became clear that Diego Costa no longer had a future at Stamford Bridge, identifying an adequate replacement was top of Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s in-tray.
It had looked as though Romelu Lukaku would be returning to west London, but his transfer to Manchester United opened the door for Morata to join the reigning champions from Real Madrid.
The Spaniard had big shoes to fill but has adapted well to the unique challenge of English football. Despite continuing speculation that he is not entirely happy with life at Chelsea, Morata now has nine Premier League goals to his name. Crucially, his physical attributes enable Conte to play the same system that was so successful with Costa as the spearhead.
Although Morata may not have the nasty, aggressive streak so apparent in his countryman, so far he has more than justified his big transfer fee. And if he can continue to find the net regularly, it will take the burden off his team-mates, with domestic and European ambitions very much alive.
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