|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Chelsea’s Sarri hints at Eden Hazard exit after his masterclass sinks West Ham
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge
Date Published Mon 8 Apr 2019 21.54 BST
The adulation which poured down after the final whistle as Eden Hazard, almost sheepishly, clapped his thanks to all sides of the arena was a recognition of one man’s brilliance. His had been a virtuoso display, played out to gasps of disbelief from stands, dug-outs and opposing ranks alike. It might have been tempting to panic prematurely and wonder who could ever come close to replacing the Belgian when, as seems inevitable, he eventually departs to Real Madrid, but sometimes it is best just to savour every last second of excellence.
The worrying can wait. If this was Hazard serving notice of his determination to leave on a high, then the next few weeks could be a joy. Take the goal midway through the first half which prised West Ham apart, slicing them through their centre from the moment he flicked the ball ahead into space, the turbos kicked in and the scuttle became a gallop. There were swerves away from a half-hearted Mark Noble challenge, with Declan Rice an observer too far off the pace to muster a challenge. Then came the zig-zagged slalom, played out at breakneck speed, through Angelo Ogbonna and Fabián Balbuena just inside the visitors’ box.
Hazard went on to reach the penalty spot before dispatching his shot into the corner of the net before Ryan Fredericks, a fifth panicked opponent left littering his vapour trail, could slide in and attempt to suffocate the attempt. “It was something special,” admitted the playmaker through his adrenaline-fuelled post-match beam. “I am small so, when I play against big guys, it is very hard for them to change direction when I run at them.”
Those crumpled West Ham players had been left dizzy by the whole experience, helpless and forlorn. It was a goal to draw the focus, one of the best of his seven-year stint in English football, though, in truth, it did not tell the whole story of his effervescence.
Just as sumptuous had been the weight and accuracy of his passing, often fizzed from deep beyond full-backs and invariably while on the move. Gonzalo Higuaín, who struck a post, and Callum Hudson-Odoi benefited from the type of delivery Hazard summons at will, and to which the locals now take for granted. Then there was his dribbling, summed up in that initial reward but replicated with regular scurries into enemy territory after the break, a lone blue shirted blur among claret. West Ham charged four players with swarming around him at times in a bid to suppress the threat, but the hosts’ No10 would not be suffocated. Marko Arnautovic resorted to shoulder barging Hazard off the ball in the box, and was fortunate the referee did not deem that a foul.
His 19th goal of the campaign, dispatched from Ross Barkley’s pass as a pulsating derby entered its final minute, relieved the tension that had been built up by West Ham’s improved display after the interval. The visitors’ newfound aggression – Manuel Lanzini, Felipe Anderson and Aaron Cresswell all came close to an equaliser, while Arnautovic saw a header deflected behind by Emerson – coupled with Chelsea’s profligacy had served to whip up the tension where the hosts’ initial dominance should have driven anxiety from the tie.
Yet Hazard, given the masterclass he had conducted, was never likely to be denied his moment. Chelsea are now third, with momentum restored after three league wins in a little over a week, ahead of Slavia Prague in the Europa League quarter-finals and Sunday’s daunting trip to Liverpool. They will take heart from the Belgian’s presence on Merseyside. The league leaders should be wary.
Maurizio Sarri, of course, was not permitted that chance to ignore the likelihood of his team’s inspiration departing in the summer. Could this club afford to lose a player of his class and calibre? “From a technical point of view, no,” he said. “Not at the moment. It’s impossible to find another Hazard. At the moment there isn’t another Hazard, his level is so high. You’d have to find two players to make the level of Hazard. So I hope Hazard can stay here, otherwise we’ll have to try something different.
“I’m sure the club doesn’t want to sell him. But, of course, we all have to respect his decision. He will be entering the last season of contract and, if he wants to have another experience, we’ll respect that. We’ll try, of course, in any way to convince him [to stay] but it’s not easy.” The Italian suggested £100m would be “too cheap in this market”, with that a message to Real. The Spanish club had hoped to resume negotiations later this week in the belief Chelsea might be driven down towards the £85m they would be happier to pay. That, surely, will prove wishful thinking on their part.
On this evidence he can still leave Chelsea with Champions League football as a parting gift and with his reputation among their support unaffected. Those in the lower tier of the Matthew Harding stand had unfurled a huge banner depicting Hazard in a trademark knee-sliding celebration prior to kick-off. At some point he will be missed but, for now, irrepressible performances like these are simply to be cherished.
Daily Mail: PLAYER RATINGS AND LIVE PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Kepa 6.5; Azpilicueta 7, Rudiger 6.5, Luiz 6.5, Emerson 7; Kante 7, Jorginho 7, Loftus-Cheek 8 (Barkley 70, 7); Hudson-Odoi 7 (Pedro 85), Higuain 6.5 (Giroud 76), Hazard 9.5
Subs not used: Caballero, Kovacic, Willian, Christensen
Goals: Hazard 24, 90
Booked: Azpilicueta, Kepa
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 7.5
WEST HAM (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 6; Fredericks 6.5, Balbuena 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Noble 6 (Obiang 70, 5), Rice 7; Arnautovic 5.5, Lanzini 5.5, Anderson 5.5; Hernandez 5 (Snodgrass 46, 5)
Subs not used: Adrian, Nasri, Diop, Masuaku, Perez
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini 6
Referee: Chris Kavanagh 6.5
Att: 40, 537