Eden Hazard Inspires Chelsea Past Brighton & Hove Albion in Premier League

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2018

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard applauds the fans as he leaves the pitch after being substituted off during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on December 16, 2018. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. /         (Photo credit should read GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Chelsea closed the gap to two points on Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League on Sunday, as they beat Brighton & Hove Albion 2-1 at the Amex Stadium.  

The visitors were out of the blocks quickly, with Eden Hazard setting up Pedro to give them a deserved lead. Chelsea's No. 10 then doubled the Blues' lead before the break, latching on to Willian's through ball to finish calmly.

Brighton responded well in the second period and got back into the game when Solly March turned in Bernardo's centre. However, they were unable to grab an equaliser, with the Blues re-establishing control in the contest and seeing out an important win.

The one potential blemish on the day for Chelsea was a knock for Hazard, as he was taken off for what appeared to be an ankle issue, per Vaishali Bhardwaj of the Evening Standard.

   

Sarri Influence Will Take Hazard to Next Level

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 16:  Eden Hazard of Chelsea scores his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Brighton & Hove Albion and Chelsea FC at American Express Community Stadium on December 16, 2018 in Brighton, United Kingdom.  (
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Although the goals haven't been flowing for Hazard lately, in recent weeks his performance levels have picked up again. Here he excelled at the point of the attack.

The Belgian's movement and vision were vital in the Blues taking the lead, as he squared the ball to Pedro for an easy finish. Hazard then showed his speed and composure to race clear and tuck home.

Per Kristof Terreur of Het Laatste Nieuws, while the goal had been a long time coming for Hazard, he's still being productive in his play:

Liam Twomey of ESPN FC noted Hazard is seemingly adding new facets to his game:

Since manager Maurizio Sarri arrived at the club, it's been clear that getting more from Hazard is high on his agenda. After his blistering start to the season slowed down, there are signs that the forward is beginning to find his feet again as a false nine.

Overall, he's been one of the best players in the Premier League this season and, under the guidance of Sarri, his career looks set to continue on an upward trajectory.

   

Blues Must Persist with False-9 Formation Amid Striker Struggles

Chelsea's Italian head coach Maurizio Sarri arrives for the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Hove Albion and Chelsea at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on December 16, 2018. (Photo by Glyn KIR
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

With neither Olivier Giroud nor Alvaro Morata making a consistent case to start games up top for Chelsea, the change in attacking shape in the last two matches has made sense.

Pedro and Willian have provided threats from wide positions, with the former showing his predatory instincts in scoring the opening goal. The latter was on hand to set up Hazard's second.

While Hazard said following the win over Manchester City last weekend that playing as the centre-forward wasn't necessarily what he preferred, at the moment it's a move that's working for the team, as ESPN.com's Jeff Borzello noted:

Both Giroud and Morata appear best equipped to come off the bench and influence matches late on. With that in mind, for now this way of playing appears to be the best way forward for Chelsea to get results. Sarri can then assess his striking options either in January or at the end of the campaign.

    

What's Next?

Chelsea are in action in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday, as they face Bournemouth in the quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge. Brighton's next match is also against the Cherries, in the Premier League on Saturday.

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