Eden Hazard at blistering best as Chelsea stroll past Newcastle
Chelsea made it six wins from their last seven Premier League games with a routine 3-1 victory over Newcastle on Saturday.
A sleepy start for the home side allowed the visitors to open the scoring. Some indecision in the Chelsea defence and a hint of handball saw it fall to the feet of Dwight Gayle on 11 minutes and he slotted home.
That woke the Blues up, and they drew a smart save from Karl Darlow through Eden Hazard before Andreas Christensen's header struck the post. Chelsea were level when Hazard's shot from a tight angle found the net and they led 2-1 at the break when Alvaro Morata turned in Victor Moses' cross.
The balance of play continued in Chelsea's favour after the break with Moses enjoying himself down the right flank and Hazard causing havoc all over the pitch. The game was put out of reach midway through the half when Moses was brought down in the area, with Hazard chipping over Darlow from the spot.
The reaction after falling behind was instant and effective with Newcastle unable to cope with Chelsea's movement. Moses' return was also very welcome.
Being slow out of the blocks made life unnecessarily difficult with some jittery moments at the back. The game could also have been put to bed much earlier had chances been taken, though that is probably being picky.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Antonio Conte had good balance in midfield and defence despite a degree of rotation. He made some intelligent substitutions to keep players fresh ahead of a congested period of fixtures.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 6 -- Made a few uncharacteristic errors of judgement and might have been stronger for the opening goal. Had few other saves to make.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- After a nervous start he grew into the game to be a confident presence. Could still work on his distribution.
DF Andreas Christensen, 8 -- The young Dane gets better with every game. A commanding and assured figure at the heart of the defence, he almost netted his first Premier League goal only to see his header rebound off the upright.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- As dependable as ever. Made some timely interventions and it was his well-placed cross that resulted in Chelsea's equaliser.
MF Victor Moses, 8 -- After a spending a couple of months on the sidelines there was an understandable amount of rust in his display early on but he quickly got up to speed. Showed his value to the team with a wonderfully whipped cross for Chelsea's second and a surging run that drew the penalty.
MF N'Golo Kante, 7 -- A typically energetic and effective performance form the midfield dynamo. Covered every blade of grass for the umpteenth time in his Chelsea career.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 -- Pulled the strings having been afforded some license to roam with two other midfielders alongside him. Was always on the lookout for the incisive pass into Hazard or Morata.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 7 -- Showed lots of lovely little touches and intelligent passes. Almost played Hazard in for his hat trick when his deliciously clipped ball just eluded the Belgian.
MF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- Got forward well and drew a couple of decent, if regulation, saves from Darlow.
FW Eden Hazard, 9 -- The little wonder has gone up another level this season and Newcastle were the latest side to have no answer to him. A blur of flicks, turns and mazy runs he could have scored five goals but settled for two. Will torment England at the World Cup next summer on this form.
FW Alvaro Morata, 7 -- Got on the scoresheet with a trademark header and his movement gave his markers a headache. His touch was sometimes found wanting which hindered his impact.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, N/R -- Was involved regularly after coming on and his positive contributions should hopefully bolster his confidence.
FW Willian, N/R -- A lovely cameo from the Brazilian, who was always seeking to breach the Newcastle defence.
DF Gary Cahill N/R -- Neat, tidy and comfortable in his brief time on the pitch.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.