Eden Hazard may have been man of the match in the Blues’ lunchtime defeat of Newcastle, but the back-to-fitness Victor Moses and the back-to-form Danny Drinkwater were also stand-out participants.
The Toon Army outsang Chelsea for the entire game, but on the field the Blues outplayed the Magpies and, in the end, a 3-1 scoreline flattered United.
Drinkwater played up front alongside Hazard and Alvaro Morata, although he occupied a slightly more withdrawn position during the second half.
Dwight Gayle scored first as Newcastle came out of the traps far faster than the hosts.
Early kick-offs do not agree with either Chelsea’s players or fans. The former were subdued, the latter almost silent.
But Eden Hazard was alive to the possibilities of a rebound in the 21st minute, and levelled with a well-taken half-volley.
Morata made it 2-1 to the Blues 12 minutes later, heading home a Moses cross, and from that moment on the result was not in doubt.
Hazard added the third in the 74th minute after Moses was tripped up, coolly lobbing the ball into the centre of the net as the Toon keeper, Karl Darlow – who had had an excellent game – dived to his side.
Tony Conte can’t get enough of Hazard, although he is consciously rationing his pitch time to preserve him from injury. After the game Conte commented: “Our start wasn’t good enough. After going 1-0 down, we started to play with good intensity and good football. But our start was a bit slow.”
Tellingly, in every game in which Conte has been manager and Eden Hazard has scored, the Blues have won.
Hazard is more than just a talisman. The challenge will be to keep him in the summer… and, for that matter, to hang on to Conte, whose body language at times suggests he’ll be near the exit himself, come May.