Football: Hazard lights Chelsea's path to summit

Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring his first goal against Newcastle United during their English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London on Feb 8, 2014. Hazard's hat-trick gave Chelsea a 3-0 win over Newcastle United as they returned t
Chelsea's Eden Hazard celebrates scoring his first goal against Newcastle United during their English Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in London on Feb 8, 2014. Hazard's hat-trick gave Chelsea a 3-0 win over Newcastle United as they returned to the top of the Premier League for the first time since September. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Eden Hazard's hat-trick gave Chelsea a 3-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday, Feb 8, 2014, as they returned to the top of the Premier League for the first time since September.

Having previously won 1-0 at title rivals Manchester City on Monday, Chelsea are arguably the form team in the top flight at the moment and in Hazard they have the stand-out player.

He struck with two fine finishes in the first half and completed his first treble in Chelsea colours from the penalty spot mid-way through the second period.

Jose Mourinho's side jumped above Arsenal and City, both of whom dropped points, as the west Londoners signalled their intent to end a four-year wait for the biggest prize in English football.

Chelsea, who were missing the injured John Terry, might have started at a slow tempo, but the warning signs were there from the off that this would be a routine afternoon at Stamford Bridge.

In the early stages, Hazard ran out of space and failed to get a strong connection with a shot that Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul easily gathered.

Frank Lampard suffered a similar fate from 20 yards out and Oscar narrowly failed to find the target, but the hosts were gathering momentum that was proving difficult to contain.

Hazard, in particular, was in elusive form and if was no surprise to see Chelsea take a deserved lead.

Branislav Ivanovic swept in a cross and Hazard slotted home a first-time finish with 27 minutes on the clock.

It was a goal that had been coming, but Newcastle began to make the most of the room behind the Chelsea defence.

That could, and should have, resulted in a 31st equaliser for Moussa Sissoko.

Sissoko, captain for the day, latched onto Davide Santon's pass, but his touch was heavy as he bore down on goal and Petr Cech was able to smother the ball.

To make matters worse, Chelsea broke from the resulting corner to score one of the team goals of the season.

In a sweeping move Willian and Hazard combined before Samuel Eto'o's back-heel saw the Belgian slide home his second goal in the 34th minute, with the ball travelling from one end to the other in just six seconds.

Beaten 3-0 by north-east rivals Sunderland in their previous outing, Newcastle found themselves staring down the barrel once again.

Chelsea were not ready to go easy, with goal difference a potentially significant end-of-season factor, and it did not make comfortable viewing for Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.

Lampard's free-kick was turned over by Krul, but there would be no stopping Hazard as he completed his treble in the 63rd minute.

This time it was all down to Newcastle's lack of discipline, rather than any defensive disorganisation, after visiting substitute Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was adjudged to have hauled Eto'o down at a corner.

Hazard sent Krul the wrong way from the spot and with half an hour still to play, it seemed a matter of how many the rampant hosts could score.

Chelsea introduced new 11 million pound (S$22.9 million) winger Mohamed Salah for his first appearance late on and he should have marked his debut with a goal.

The Egyptian wasted two golden chances, but the damage had already been done by the man he had replaced.

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