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Hazard strikes as Chelsea sweep past West Brom
Eden Hazard bagged a brace on Monday night as Chelsea swept past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 to climb to third in the English Premier League. Antonio Conte's men had slipped to fifth following consecutive loses to Bournemouth and Watford.
But Hazard calmed nerves following a couple of early chances for the visitors with a strike in the 25th minute.
Nigeria interntaional Victor Moses added the second mid way through the second-half and Hazard ensured the points after 71 minutes.
"It's not easy to lose two games but now we are back," said Hazard. "We are Chelsea. We are the champions, we have to give everything."
While Manchester City set the pace with 72 points after 27 games, the intrigue in England appears to be which side will finish in the three other places which lead to participation in next season's Uefa Champions League.
Second placed Manchester United boast 56 points, Liverpool have 53, Chelsea 52 and Tottenham Hotspur 51.
As Chelsea ponder the defence of their title, West Brom are in the thick of a battle to stay in the Premier League. Defeat at Stamford Bridge was their third consecutive loss. They are bottom of the table and seven points adrift of safety positions with 11 games remaining.
Their cause suffered a blow on Monday night in west London when striker Daniel Sturridge was taken off minutes into the clash with a hamstring injury. "We are going to fight until the end," said West Brom boss Alan Pardew whose side face relegation threatened Huddersfield Town and Watford in their next two premier League fixtures.
"With the games coming up, this is our period to do something," added Pardew. "But it is no good saying they are good games, you've got to win them and that's something we haven't managed to do for a long time."
Pardew's Chelsea counterpart, Antonio Conte, went into Monday night's match with rumours swirling that he could be sacked if there were another poor result. But during the match and at the end, the Stamford Bridge faithful bellowed their support for the Italian who led Chelsea to the 2017 Premier League title in his first season in charge.
"I think the fans are reading the speculation on me and for sure I am grateful to the fans for supporting me this way," said Conte. "Maybe in this year-and-a-half they understand my patience and will to defend this colour, this shirt, this badge."
Whether the fans will be as chirpy in a month remains to be seen. Chelsea host second tier Hull City in the last 16 of the FA Cup on 16 February. Spanish league leaders Barcelona visit Stamford Bridge four days later in the first leg in the last 16 of the Champions League and there are trips to Manchester to face United and City.