Healthy Hazard is the key to Chelsea's success: Zola

Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Bournemouth's Charlie Daniels.
Chelsea's Eden Hazard in action with Bournemouth's Charlie Daniels.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Chelsea must have hoped they could advance to the League Cup semi-finals without having to call upon Eden Hazard, granting his battered and bruised ankles a rest, but currently everything they do seems dependent upon their brilliant Belgian.

Blues assistant coach Gianfranco Zola was so impressed with the forward - who scored in the 1-0 win over Bournemouth on Wednesday - that he said that the 27-year-old can make a difference "even if he plays just 20 minutes".

Chelsea had buzzed round the Bournemouth goal for much of the game but it was not until substitute Hazard came on with half an hour to go that they looked creative and decisive enough to break through.

"The difference was the changes that we made," Zola told reporters at the post-match conference in place of manager Maurizio Sarri.

"Of course we have a lot of games and players like Eden (Hazard) we need to keep fit. He can make a big difference.

"He is certainly one of the players who have given us a lot of satisfaction. Hopefully he will stay and achieve great things in the future."

An 84th-minute Hazard goal, which spun into the net after a deflection, earned Chelsea a place in the semi-finals, where they will face London rivals Tottenham.

Another player who caught Zola's eye was England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

"I was impressed with him. He has done well as a wide player, but he showed a lot of sacrifice as a midfielder," Zola said.

"He was getting tired but was disciplined... He is a good boy and works very hard."

It was the first home game since alleged racist taunts against Manchester City's Raheem Sterling prompted an outcry and Chelsea banned four fans.

Chairman Bruce Buck took a page in the programme notes to condemn racism and the atmosphere in the ground was lively but appeared good humoured, with no added security in evidence.

Meanwhile, Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has played down the prospect of in-form striker Callum Wilson leaving the club during the January transfer window, amid reported interest from Chelsea.

The 26-year-old has scored eight goals in 16 league appearances this season and also made his England debut last month.

"Callum's our player and very, very focused on us. I think you could see that with his performance," Howe said.

When asked whether there was any scenario in which Wilson could be sold in January, the manager replied: "Not from my perspective, no."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2018, with the headline 'Healthy Hazard is the key to Chelsea's success: Zola'. Print Edition | Subscribe