Chelsea

Sizzling Eden Hazard Proves He Is Chelsea's Key to Title Glory

HULL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KC Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2014

It doesn't take much to get Chelsea fans bouncing, so the streets of West London will be jumping after goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres sent the Blues back to the top of the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over Hull City.

However temporary their stay is in the No. 1 spot remains to be seen (Manchester City and Arsenal play on Sunday and Monday, respectively), but the significance of their win at the KC Stadium shouldn't be lost, a factor Jose Mourinho was eager to stress come the final whistle.

"It's better to be top than not to be, but probably after tomorrow, we are not anymore," he said in his post-match interview on BT Sport. "The important thing is the team grows up and deals with this responsibility.

"I feel the team is improving. Step by step the team is improving. ... We can feel evolution."

A big part of that evolution has been the form of Hazard.

The Belgian only celebrated his 23rd birthday this week, yet his performance against Hull typified that of a player with far more experience and guile than his relative youth suggests.

Right now, Hazard is the key to success at Stamford Bridge, pulling the strings and punishing opponents.

HULL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates scoring their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KC Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

"Every manager wants players like him," Mourinho continued. "I can't put pressure on him to be the Man of the Match every game, but what I expect from him is motivation, and commitment is strong.

"Last year, we saw a talented Hazard. But this season, we're watching a much more mature player, and because of that, now he's getting Man of the Match regularly. He probably deserves a little more than that."

Indeed he does, but while Mourinho was referring to Hazard receiving Player of the Month awards, the type of form he is in is deserving of even more, namely silverware.

Chelsea didn't so much struggle in the opening period on Saturday, although their performance lacked urgency. Hull appeared comfortable at the back, and while Oscar should have scored close to half-time, Chelsea didn't cause many problems.

Step up Hazard, who grabbed hold of the game to fire his team into the lead shortly before the hour.

It was a moment of individual brilliance as he skipped beyond Hull's defenders, firing home from 18 yards.

Of all those on the pitch, it was no surprise Hazard was the man making the difference. He did it on Saturday, and it's his influence that has maintained Chelsea's title challenge.

HULL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Fernando Torres of Chelsea scores their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KC Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Right now he looks unstoppable, and (whisper it quietly) so too does Fernando Torres. The Spaniard scored again against Hull, his second Premier League goal in as many matches.

Like a public transport cliche, Chelsea waited a whole calendar year for an away goal from one of their strikers, and two have now come along at once after Torres' goal against Southampton on New Year's Day.

Scoring in each of the Blues' away matches in 2014 will boost Torres' confidence, which can only be a good sign for Mourinho.

Throw in the form of Hazard, and Chelsea are beginning to have a formidable look about them.

"We are young and we are top," concluded Hazard, also speaking with BT Sport. "We will have to see after February and March (if we are there still), but we are a young team."

HULL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11:  Petr Cech of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Chelsea at KC Stadium on January 11, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It proved a fine day on the road for Chelsea. Not only did they secure the three points against Hull, but in so doing, Petr Cech made headlines by breaking the club's all-time clean sheets record.

The Czech stopper now has 209 in all competitions—150 in the Premier League—which moves him ahead of legend Peter Bonetti.

Next up is Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Jan. 19. The big games are coming thick and fast, but Chelsea look ready for them.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes

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