LONDON – Eden Hazard scored his 100th and 101st Chelsea goals as Maurizio Sarri’s men moved back into the Premier League top four by grinding out a 2-1 win at Watford on Boxing Day.
Two of the three goals came in first-half stoppage time as the Belgian’s opener was quickly cancelled out by Roberto Pereyra’s spectacular strike.
However, Hazard made sure he was the match-winner as he was brought down by Ben Foster, and then converted the resulting spot-kick early in the second half to move Chelsea two points ahead of Arsenal in the battle for Champions League qualification.
Despite fuming at Chelsea’s lack of focus in losing at Stamford Bridge for the first time in charge of the Blues to Leicester on Saturday, Sarri named the same starting line-up, with Hazard again serving as the focal point of the attack ahead of Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata.
Hazard had to wait for his chances to come, but showed why Sarri persists with him through the middle as he coolly rounded Foster to give Chelsea the lead.
Until that point, Willian had the visitors’ only clear chance when he also rounded the keeper, but could only strike the post from a narrow angle.
And Watford will believe they were well worthy of their equaliser just a minute after falling behind.
Jose Holebas’ corner perfectly picked out Pereyra on the edge of the Chelsea box, and the Argentine connected sweetly on the volley to find the bottom corner.
The hosts had claims for a penalty waved away when Gerard Deulofeu tumbled under a shoulder barge from David Luiz, but there was no controversy when at the other end moments later, Hazard was hauled down by Foster.
Hazard picked himself up to dispatch the penalty confidently, and by the end, Chelsea’s margin of victory should have been greater.
Willian and N’Golo Kante drilled low shots inches wide, and Foster had to race back to his goal after going forward for a late Watford corner to deny Hazard his hat trick with the last action of the game.AFP