Hazard and Chelsea give West Ham a footballing lesson

Posted by Phil Lythell

Eden Hazard's goal put Chelsea 2-0 in front against West HamGettyImagesEden Hazard's goal put Chelsea 2-0 in front against West Ham

The 2-0 hammering handed to West Ham was the perfect end to a good week for Chelsea.

The exhilarating comeback at Manchester United last Sunday was augmented by a less convincing but equally enthralling win over Steaua Bucharest on Thursday. Completing the seven days by dispatching East London's finest in comprehensive style ensured that Rafael Benitez and his team can look back on their work with real pleasure. Frank Lampard netting his 200th goal for Chelsea against his former club provided the icing on the cake with the cherry then added as news emerged of Tottenham's 1-0 home defeat to Fulham.

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The most pleasing aspect of the display was witnessing the team express itself with real verve. From the very first whistle both the tempo of the Blues' approach and the confidence to play the game in a creative and confident way meant that the Hammers continually found themselves on the back foot. One of the most infuriating traits of this season has been the inability to introduce positive consistency into performances, with one step forward generally being followed by one -- if not two -- steps back. At Stamford Bridge on Sunday afternoon, the players were able to resurrect their second-half display at Old Trafford, of a week previous, to overwhelm the opposition once more.

Leading the cast was Eden Hazard, who has found a new lease of life in recent weeks. The Belgian ran the game from start to finish and he imprinted himself on every good move that Chelsea made during the 90 minutes, creating the first goal and scoring a sumptuous second. His exquisite touch, quick brain and dazzling feet have been venerated on these pages several times before, but something often overlooked, yet just as important in the hurly burly of the Premier League, is his bravery and physique. Hazard's upper-body strength is deceptive considering his diminutive frame, but he was able to shrug off the rugged attentions of Mohamed Diame and company with the minimum of fuss.

Hazard was almost Messi-esque in his ability to hold off opposition players before wriggling through improbable gaps. He continued to emulate the incredible Argentine by constantly providing an end product, whether by firing at goal himself of teeing up one of his team-mates. To extend the metaphor even further, it is well known that Roman Abramovich would like to see his team play in the image of Barcelona, and in Hazard and Juan Mata he now has two players at his disposal capable of reproducing the type of football that he wishes to see. The almost telepathic understanding between the two of them is reminiscent of Xavi and Andres Iniesta at their peerless best, and the introduction of Oscar in the second half made the comparison to the Catalans even stronger.

But before anyone gets carried away, the poor standard of the opposition has to be taken into account, as West Ham were simply dreadful. Normally this fixture is filled with good football from both sides and an intense physical battle, yet on this occasion only the home team served up any real entertainment, while the Hammers offered very little fight in any area of the pitch. Andy Carroll attempted to get stuck in but he was competently dealt with by David Luiz and Gary Cahill. Diame was unable to impose himself on the game and Ricardo Vaz Te might as well not have been on the pitch so anonymous was his contribution. The only real threat was Matt Jarvis whose pace and close control was West Ham's one real outlet. Unfortunately for him, Cesar Azpilicueta put in an exemplary performance with his positioning and turn of foot, ultimately turning the duel in his favour.

So insipid were the visitors that the only real negative was the scoreline. Chelsea should have won by a far wider margin and will be disappointed that they did not score at least five goals. Lampard missed two glorious chances that could have drawn him level with Bobby Tambling at the head of Chelsea's all-time goal-scoring charts with Mata spurning a couple of good openings as well. However, Demba Ba was the biggest culprit, having failed to convert any of the three one-on-one chances he was presented with. The Senegalese was excellent in his hold-up play, but he appeared to be wearing square boots judging by the inaccuracy of his finishing.

Putting such pedantry aside, Chelsea were incredibly impressive in a must-win game, which bodes well for the rest of the season. The fact that it gave the team a third positive result in a week across three different competitions gives extra encouragement. With the three-way fight for Champions League places between London's big three getting ever more fraught an upturn in form is all the more welcome.

Now it is vital that Benitez can maintain this upward trajectory and deliver the league finish that is so desperately needed if Chelsea are to effectively manage the transition to a new team capable of genuinely competing for major trophies once again.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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