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Chelsea assume Premier League perch behind majestic Hazard

Hello, first place.

Shaun Botterill

A horse is a horse, of course. Of course. But this horse, it needs no endorsing. Just look to the top of the Premier League table for confirmation.

Chelsea surged to the league's perch on Saturday afternoon thanks in large part to another magnificent turn from Eden Hazard. Just hours after Arsenal's collapse at Anfield, the Belgian was again untouchable in the hosts' hauntingly efficient 3-0 win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge.

Coupled with Monday's priceless result away to Manchester City, this has proven to be some week for Chelsea. Manager Jose Mourinho may continue to play down the club's title credentials, but he knows otherwise. He certainly knows.

Newcastle knew what awaited in London this weekend, but could do little other than watch Hazard continue to cement himself as one of the world's elite talents. The 23-year-old followed his fine work at the Etihad with real substance here. Goals - three of them to be exact. Hazard's hat trick, his first for the club, was breathtaking, more so for its materialization within the team concept than the individual brilliance that is so obvious.

A reserved start (in comparison to what we witnessed on Monday) soon gave way to the zest of our attacking band, with Hazard and his costars, Willian and Oscar, tormenting the opposition from all angles. A goal was coming and when it did arrive, it was, of course, sublime. Hazard first picked up the ball from Frank Lampard and then exchanged passes with Branislav Ivanovic, whose final ball allowed the Belgian to sweep a lovely first-time strike past Tim Krul and into the far-left corner from just inside the penalty area. Sexy.

More sexy was to come just seven minutes later. This, a certain nominee for goal of the season, was borne out of a Newcastle corner. David Luiz collected the ball on the left and broke quickly, finding Willian. Our very own Energizer Bunny then sprung away from a pair of Newcastle players before moving the ball on to Hazard. He did the rest, slipping inside from the left channel and playing a magisterial (oh hey, Ray Hudson) 1-2 with Samuel Eto'o. Eto'o provided the showpiece of the move, a delicious back-heeled pass back to the advancing Hazard, who calmly slotted a first-time curler beyond Krul. Twitter was without words (not really, but you get the idea).

The second half was lighter on the sexy, but nevertheless kept the home support entertained. Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, in particular, provided good fare when he ensured Chelsea of the points with one of the more bone-headed decisions of the season, if not in recent memory. Yanga-Mbiwa, who had replaced the injured Mathieu Debuchy in the opening half, inexplicably decided to do an Iron Sheik on Eto'o as a corner from Frank Lampard entered the area. Never mind the corner was nowhere near Eto'o - Yanga-Mbiwa was having none of it. Martin Skrtel must have been so proud.

Howard Webb had no choice but to award a penalty to the hosts. Most expected Lampard to dispatch but Chelsea's all-time leading scorer - and resident class act - instead handed the ball to Hazard, who completed his hat trick with a Miles Davis-like cool. The home support quickly adorned Lampard with praise for his selfless decision, and the rest of the match played out with relatively little to report. Newcastle, which had fashioned a few decent opportunities in the opening 45 minutes, namely through Moussa Sissoko and Luuk de Jong, just wanted to get back to Tyneside.

Mohamed Salah made his debut for the club, and showed signs of being an electric option for Mourinho despite missing a pair of excellent chances, but this day was all about Hazard, who left the pitch to deserved raucous applause after 85 minutes. You know, this kid could be pretty good when he grows up.

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