Brilliant Hazard earns Chelsea win over West Ham

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Eden Hazard scored one of the goals of the Premier League season as Chelsea beat West Ham to climb above Tottenham and Arsenal into third spot in the race for a Champions League place.

Hazard, who has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid this summer, evaded five players during a stunning run, before the Belgium forward calmly beat keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

He added a late second goal to cap a magnificent individual performance in an entertaining game at Stamford Bridge.

Gonzalo Higuain hit a post, while Hazard was denied a penalty after what looked like a foul by Marko Arnautovic, with Argentine midfielder Manuel Lanzini going closest for West Ham with a shot which was beaten away by Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea, who can still qualify for next season’s Champions League by winning the Europa League, are three points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal – who have a game in hand – after a third successive league win.

The Hammers remain 11th after a third defeat in four league games.

On a day fresh reports circulated about Hazard moving to Spain’s capital, the 28-year-old produced a breathless performance to show why he is one of Europe’s best forwards.

He was outstanding from start to finish against the West Ham, inspiring his side to an 11th top-flight win at Stamford Bridge this season, and received a standing ovation from Chelsea fans at the final whistle.

In the space of a few first-half minutes, Hazard scored his 15th – and arguably best – league goal of the season, produced a wonderful pass which saw Higuain hit a post, and appeared to be fouled by Austria forward Arnautovic inside West Ham’s penalty area.

To the bewilderment of Hazard and Chelsea, referee Chris Kavanagh waved away the home side’s appeals.

Hazard’s opening goal was beautiful, the Chelsea player receiving the ball just inside the Hammers’ half before using both feet during an unstoppable run which ended with the ball in the net.

His second, a powerful low finish, sealed a deserved win for Maurizio Sarri’s side.

Hazard’s contract expires in the summer of 2020 and Blues fans will hope the club do not cash in on their prize asset after Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane admitted he has “always appreciated” the Chelsea player.

With the London club hit with a Fifa transfer ban preventing them from signing players until the end of January 2020, Chelsea would have to wait to spend any money if they did decide to sell Hazard – though they are appealing against the punishment.

It is just over a week since some Chelsea fans called for Sarri’s sacking during a narrow win at struggling Cardiff City.

Since then the Blues have gone on to record clean-sheet victories against Brighton and now West Ham to strengthen their push for a top-four finish.

This was a night when Chelsea turned on the style, with Hazard very much the standout performer.

Callum Hudson-Odoi also sparkled on just his second league start and N’Golo Kante oozed class as the hosts played with confidence and a swagger they have struggled to produce on a consistent basis under Sarri.

With away games at Liverpool and Manchester United to come, the Italian’s side still have work to do in the final five matches to finish in the top four.

However, they can look forward to hosting Champions League games next season if they can maintain the level of performance they produced against London rivals West Ham.

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