Hazard claims he's a 'leader' in wake of Sarri criticism

Following the League Cup semi-final win over Tottenham, Eden Hazard is now looking forward to next month's final against Manchester City in the belief that Chelsea can defeat the Cup holders.
Following the League Cup semi-final win over Tottenham, Eden Hazard is now looking forward to next month's final against Manchester City in the belief that Chelsea can defeat the Cup holders.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON • Eden Hazard felt that his starring role in Chelsea's 2-1 win over Tottenham in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final before a 4-2 penalty shoot-out victory proved his leadership qualities.

The hosts overcame a 1-0 first-leg deficit to set up a meeting with Manchester City on Feb 24, with Maurizio Sarri's men reacting impressively after they were accused of lacking "battling and fighting qualities" in the defeat at Arsenal on Jan 20.

Hazard, who was restored to the flank, was outstanding as Chelsea surged to a 2-0 half-time lead following goals from the forward and N'Golo Kante.

Fernando Llorente pulled one back for Spurs after the break, but the Blues' clinical edge from the spot saw them book their 15th Cup final in 17 years on Thursday.

This was the first year away goals have not counted in the semi-final stage since 1980.

Sarri suggested in the build-up to the game that, while a wonderfully gifted footballer, Hazard was more of "an individual player".

The Italian later claimed reaching the first major final of his coaching career would breathe new "enthusiasm" into Chelsea's season and he had not been seeking to criticise his players.

But Belgium international Hazard was adamant that he "did not care" about his manager's assessment, insisting that "on the pitch, I'm a leader".

He said in a post-game interview: "My job on the pitch is to do what I can do. Today, I did, so I am just happy.

"(In) the meeting we had before the game, we talked about going through and playing in the final. Now, we are in the final so we are just happy."

Looking ahead to the Wembley final next month, Hazard admitted that while "it was always hard" against City as "they are the best team in the Premier League at the moment, (along) with Liverpool", the final would likely be a "50-50 game".

He added: "They win a lot of trophies in the last five or six years, but we also have a great team."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2019, with the headline 'Hazard claims he's a 'leader' in wake of Sarri criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe