New Delhi: Attacking midfielder Eden Hazard scored a brace to lead Chelsea to a 3-0 victory over West Bromwich Albion as the defending champions jumped to the fourth spot in the English Premier League. However, the contest at the Stamford Bridge on Monday was not as lopsided as the score would indicate, with last-placed West Brom playing like a team determined to avoid relegation.
The Antonio Conte-coached Chelsea, who began the match in fifth-place after two straight losses, were not impressive during the opening minutes.
The visitors showed surprising ambition on offence, even after losing striker Daniel Sturridge to injury in the fourth minute.
It was only after the Baggies twice threatened the Chelsea goal that the hosts seemed to become fully engaged, allowing the vast difference in talent between the two sides to become evident.
Hazard led the way, putting the Blues up 1-0 in the 25th minute with an assist from French striker Olivier Giroud, making his first start since coming over from fellow London club Arsenal.
Though Chelsea were dominant for the rest of the first half, West Brom showed no sign of throwing in the towel and their hopes were lifted in the 57th minute as Salomon Rondon let loose from close range, but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made the stop.
Even so, Jonny Evans nearly scored with a thunderous header on the ensuing corner and West Brom continued with the wind at their backs until the 63rd minute, when right wing-back Victor Moses made it 2-0 for Chelsea after a give-and-go with Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas.
The third goal came eight minutes later courtesy of Hazard, with an assist from Spanish striker Alvaro Morata, back on the pitch after missing almost a month with back problems.
“We must be satisfied to win the game and get the three points,” Conte was quoted as saying to chelseafc.com.
“I think we can play better, with more confidence, and after two bad defeats our confidence went down. We started the game with a bit of difficulty but after we scored we controlled the game and created many chances.
“To get three points, show the will to fight and keep another clean sheet was important and we must continue in this way.”
The win lifts Chelsea to fourth place with 53 points, one fewer than third-place Liverpool and one more than Tottenham Hotspur. West Brom are seven points from safety with 11 matches left. (With IANS inputs)