Millennium Post

Hazard keeps Chelsea flying

Hazard keeps Chelsea flying
Eden Hazard’s first-half header ensured Chelsea maintained their five-point advantage at the Premier League summit as Jose Mourinho’s side won 1-0 at West Ham United on Wednesday.

Having secured their first trophy of the season by beating Tottenham Hotspur in Sunday’s League Cup final, Mourinho’s team strengthened their chances of delivering more silverware to Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea were helped in that aim by Manchester City’s defeat at Liverpool while they were on Wembley duty and despite the best efforts of a West Ham side determined to halt a new year slump, they ensured that advantage was not lost. But it would have been a different story had West Ham striker Diafra Sakho made more of a succession of good chances.

And the home side were left incensed by referee Andre Marriner’s failure to punish John Terry when the Chelsea skipper blocked Cheikhou Kouyate’s late run when he was on a booking. Ultimately, though, Chelsea’s resolve ensured they head into a week-long break having taken another step towards the title, while West Ham are still looking for their second league win since the turn of the year.

Mourinho largely stuck to his Wembley line-up as Chelsea attempted to take advantage of City’s weekend slip, making just two changes, with Thibaut Courtois replacing Petr Cech in goal and Oscar starting ahead of Willian. That meant Kurt Zouma was offered a resounding vote of confidence by his manager, with the defender once again asked to operate in an unfamiliar midfield holding role in the absence of the suspended Nemanja Matic.

It was clear Zouma’s inexperience in front of the back four would be severely tested by a West Ham side anxious to halt their recent decline. After Diego Costa had sent an early opportunity flying over the bar for the visitors, West Ham responded positively and threatened to go ahead before Hazard established Chelsea’s lead.

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