LONDON • Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri has opted to wrap Eden Hazard in cotton wool for the start of the Premier League campaign, given his exertions for Belgium at the World Cup in Russia.
And the Italian's conservative approach in giving his forward adequate rest to get up to speed with the intensity of English football paid dividends yesterday after the 27-year-old put in a virtuoso performance to grab a hat-trick against Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues extended their 100 per cent record to join Liverpool at the top of the table with Willian scoring the other in a 4-1 victory.
The game was, however, not as easy as the scoreline suggested, with the Bluebirds taking the shock lead through Sol Bamba.
Hazard was irrepressible though, scoring twice - one of which was a brilliant individual effort - as Chelsea went into the break 2-1 up and his second-half spot kick capped off a stellar showing.
Champions Manchester City also kept within touching distance of the early pacesetters as they comfortably beat promoted side Fulham 3-0 at the Etihad Stadium to stay two points off the joint leaders.
Leroy Sane, recalled after being left out of the squad against Newcastle, scored inside two minutes with a close-range finish before David Silva made it 2-0 when his rising shot crashed in off the bar.
Raheem Sterling made it 3-0 with a simple tap-in from Sergio Aguero's cross and Sane told BBC Sport afterwards that it had been a "fantastic week for him".
"I became a daddy this week. It was also a good game today and we won, we played good," he said.
And on Tyneside, Arsenal made it three wins on the bounce with a cracking set piece from midfielder Granit Xhaka and a Mesut Ozil strike giving Arsenal a 2-1 win over Newcastle despite a stuttering first-half performance.
But the Gunners came out firing after the break and Xhaka smashed his free kick home.
Arsenal shifted into cruise control after Ozil's goal and, although there were late nerves through Ciaran Clark's stoppage-time header, Rafa Benitez's men could not find the equaliser as they fell to their fourth loss in five league games this term.