One moment proved pivotal in this match at the Hawthorns; Gareth Barry prodded a bee’s nest by putting in a strong challenge on Eden Hazard early on. This angered the little Belgian greatly and spurred him on to put in a mesmeric and inspired performance. He scored twice and assisted another as the Blues romped to a 4-0 win over West Brom, putting the pressure right on Tony Pulis. If Hazard is now back, it has to be worth a free bet on Chelsea catching the runaway leaders, City.
It looked to be a tough fixture on paper, it always is away to a Pulis side, but Chelsea cruised to a convincing victory. But it was the home team who threatened early on, Salomon Rondon thought he’d put Albion in front with a header but he was denied by the lineman’s flag. This seemed to give the away side a wake-up call and the likes of Cesc Fabregas and N’Golo Kante started to control the midfield as Chelsea dominated possession. Barry went in hard on Hazard but the challenge went unpunished, much to the anger of Hazard. He took his fury out on the ball by leathering it goalward and Ben Foster could only parry the venomous strike into the path of Alvaro Morata and the Spaniard converted.
Hazard was booked moments later for a dangerous challenge on Grzegorz Krychowiak but then went on to make his point in the right way. Cesc Fabregas’s through ball was exquisitely back-heeled into the path of Hazard by Morata and the winger rounded Foster and slotted home to double Chelsea’s advantage. Morata was again involved down the left for the Blues and was crudely fouled by Ahmed Hegazi, the Egyptian centre back picking up Morata as he surged past him. It was something that belonged more on the rugby field than at the Hawthorns but you could be mistaken for not noticing the difference. Fabregas sent in a cross to the near post from the free kick and there was his compatriot Marcos Alonso to volley home from a tight angle. The Blues went into the break with a 3-goal advantage and there was no way back for a West Brom side booed at half time by their supporters.
On the other side of the break, two penalty claims, one for each side, were turned down by referee Jon Moss. Firstly, it was Fabregas who was adjudged to have dived after Eden Hazard was denied by Ben Foster’s leg. Up the other end it was Salomon Rondon who was also booked for diving, going down far too easily under the challenge of Andreas Christensen. Cesc Fabregas worked his magic again a few minutes later when he brilliantly found Eden Hazard who had breached the Albion defence and Fabregas got his second assist of the game and Hazard got his second goal of the game. Hazard was caught up by the retreating defenders but outfoxed them and the goalkeeper by jinking inside and placing it into the far corner with ease.
Thibaut Courtois’ clean sheet looked firmly intact until Cesar Azpilicueta was caught in possession by James McClean but the Irishman could only put his shot wide of the far post after running the length of the Chelsea half with the ball. A rare lapse in concentration by a Chelsea defence that dealt with the limited threat of the Albion attack with comfort. As the Hawthorns gradually emptied and the away fans sang on, the game fizzled out and the Blues walked away with all three points.