Chelsea 2 Manchester City 1: Eden Hazard stars as Antonio Conte seals vital title win over Pep Guardiola

simon johnson
REUTERS

Eden Hazard proved his worth to Chelsea with a fine brace in Wednesday's 2-1 win against Manchester City to secure a vital three points in the Premier League title race.

Hazard, who is a target for Real Madrid, showed why he's priceless to Chelsea and helped them bounce back from their shock Crystal Palace defeat.

The good mood at Stamford Bridge was tempered by news that closest challengers Spurs had staged a late comeback to beat Swansea.

But this success ensured Chelsea stay seven points clear of Maurico Pochettino's men with just eight games remaining.

Neither Chelsea or City have exactly been known for their defensive qualities of late and the team selections reflected this.

For City, injury prone Vincent

Kompany was brought in for just his third League start of the season in place of Nicolas Otamendi.

Conte responded to Chelsea's setback against The Eagles by naming Kurt Zouma in the first XI in the League for the first time since he injured his knee ligaments 14 months ago.

It meant instead of Pedro being lined up against Leroy Sane, Cesar Azpilicueta was moved out of central defence to play right wing back instead.

The Blues had to do something, they went into the contest having not kept a clean sheet in seven League matches.

But after making the better start, the home side's recent problems at the back resurfaced as Manchester City threatened regularly.

Conte had urged the home crowd in his programme notes to create a passionate atmosphere and they responded.

The Chelsea players did so too, Hazard putting them 1-0 up inside 10 minutes, although Willy Caballero should have done more to stop it.

There was clearly something in the air at Stamford Bridge because it took a huge error from Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois to help Guardiola's men get back on level terms.

The Belgian passed the ball straight to David Silva outside his area and then palmed the midfielder's ensuing shot straight into the path of Aguero, who couldn't miss. It was his ninth goal in as many matches.

To be fair to the 24-year-old, he soon made amends as Sane was denied from close range after outpacing the struggling Zouma.

This was a classic encounter where defences were certainly not on top and the tension between Chelsea's defenders was clear to see when Gary Cahill and David Luiz exchanged words.

This thing is Manchester City looked just as vulnerable and Chelsea restored their lead after Fernandinho tripped Pedro in the area.

Hazard scored the penalty against Crystal Palace which won Chelsea the League two years ago, but it looked like he'd fluffed his lines here as Caballero saved with ease.

However, the ball rebounded perfectly into the attacking midfielder's path and he made no mistake the second time.

With Cesc Fabregas struggling defensively, Conte looked certain to make a change at the break.

The more defensive Nemanja Matic was brought on, but it was in place of Zouma instead, with Pedro moving to wing back once more.

There was no instant improvement though as Kompany was allowed a free header at the back post and it bounced off the top of the bar.

With Diego Costa struggling again up front, the League leaders were struggling to keep possession and the men in orange began to dominate.

One rare bit of good football should have seen Hazard complete his hat-trick, but the ball was sent high over the bar.

As news broke of Tottenham's dramatic victory at Liberty Stadium, the atmosphere became even more tense in the closing stages.

Fernandinho somehow skied over the bar from close range, then Courtois saved again from Aguero in injury time.

From the resulting corner, John Stones, a player who Chelsea tried to sign in 2015, wasted another glorious opportunity.

Conte's celebrations at the final whistle were a mixture of joy and outright relief. He knows there is still a lot of work to do to stay in front of Spurs.

By using Yahoo you agree that Yahoo and partners may use Cookies for personalisation and other purposes