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Eden Hazard many, Sunderland fewer

Paul Thomas

First of all, the important stuff: Eden Hazard had the game he's been threatening ever since he broke through at Lille as a teenager. This isn't just the best match he's played for Chelsea, it was probably the best of his career, and considering just how talented Hazard is you're going to have trouble finding an individual performance significantly better than that in England this season. Two special goals and an assist in a 4-3 win? Yeah, this was the Hazard show.

But despite the Belgian's brilliance, the Blues were never guaranteed to win this game. Sunderland fought magnificently throughout, taking advantage of some extraordinarily inept set piece defending to take the game to the wire. It took a performance of the highest calibre to unseat the Black Cats -- fortunately we got one.

Oscar and Michael Essien were withdrawn from the starting lineup, replaced by Willian and Frank Lampard respectively. 14 minutes in, that seemed like a mistake. A free kick bounced around the box, and Jozy Altidore was able to latch onto the ball, turn John Terry and whallop a shot past Petr Cech. 1-0 Sunderland, and the Blues had it all to do.

They did it in a hurry, thankfully. Juan Mata tormented Andrea Dossena on the Sunderland right, won a corner, and from there Chelsea proceeded to wreck havoc. Fernando Torres touched the ball onto Hazard, who blew past a pair of defenders and chipping in a cross for the unmarked Frank Lampard to head home. The Blues had been trailing for all of three minutes.

It took another 19 for Hazard to get his first goal. Torres won a header on the edge of the box, setting up the Belgian to ghost through what felt like half a dozen player before he cut back and sent a deceptively vicious shot past Vito Mannone to make it 2-1.

There were some rather odd Torres moments before Hazard grabbed his second, but in the interests of keeping the peace we'll gloss over the hilarious misses. Instead, let's focus on the Sunderland equaliser, which involved nobody doing any marking on a set piece. Again. A corner turned into a loose ball, and John O'Shea was first to it, leveling the match at 2-2 with an emphatic finish.

Eden Hazard came to the rescue once more. His first goal had been magnificent; his second was transcendent. The winger slalomed into the box, combining with Lampard (who contributed a deft backheel) before squirreling his way past another set of baffled defenders and smashing in to restore Chelsea's lead.

At this point, Torres was replaced by Demba Ba in some sort of mercy substitution, and Ba contributed by inducing Phil Bardsley to put into his own net under no pressure whatsoever with six minutes to go. I was laughing so hard at the own goal that I then missed that same Phil Bardsley (whom was once suspended for deliberately trying to injure Juan Mata) scoring a real goal at the other end of the pitch. It was from a misplayed corner. Surprise!

And then we won 4-3. Sorry for this strange little match report; I'm drunk on Eden Hazard.

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