On May 3, 2015, Eden Hazard steps up to the penalty spot to face Crystal Palace’s Julian Speroni from 12 yards out. With the game locked at 0-0, the kick could prove the moment to win Chelsea the Premier League title.
The Stamford Bridge crowd couldn’t be any more confident. After all, since joining Chelsea he had only missed two fro, 16 spot kicks. However, this time he fared quite differently as his weak effort was deflected away by Speroni, who had plunged to his right.
Despite the save, Hazard deftly headed in the rebound to score the winner and wrap up the league title for Jose Mourinho’s rampant Blues. With the League Cup, Premier League and PFA Player of the Year award under his belt, the Belgian could simply brush the missed penalty under the carpet.
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However, his swelling inability from the spot has come back to bite him this season. With Chelsea’s stagnant form, their once inspirational talisman has lost his lethal composure and execution from 12 yards.
Since slotting home an impudent penalty past Asmir Begovic and Stoke in last season’s run-in, the midfielder has missed four of his last six penalties for club and country. Such a statistic is a far cry from his once 87.5% Blues conversion rate.
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In Chelsea’s opening Champions League clash of the season, Hazard was handed penalty duties despite his ponderous miss versus Palace four months previously.
Such a decision proved costly as the Belgian panicked once the goalkeeper decided to remain static in the middle of the goal and proceeded to balloon his effort over the bar. Thankfully, the miss proved a minor detail of the game as Mourinho's side easily dispatched the inept Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The poor form spread to his international duties also as he missed once more, this time against minnows Andorra. Despite having converted a penalty earlier in the game, the 24-year-old’s second kick was so embarrassingly feeble the keeper collected the ball in his arms with great ease.
However, Hazard’s penalty failings reached a new peak this week as he made the dreaded walk from the halfway line in a League Cup shootout with Stoke City. It was a must-score penalty with the scores at 5-4.
Completely abandoning his usual stuttering tactic, the winger went for power by whipping the ball towards the top left corner. Jack Butland had read the attempt, though, superbly pouncing to his right and flicking the ball over the crossbar to appropriately reflect Hazard’s recent luck.
Never before had the ex-Lille forward cost his club so much with a penalty miss. Chelsea fans had truly lost faith in a scenario that used to prove a customary conversion.
It is very likely he will now be stripped of penalty duties for club and country for the foreseeable future. Most goalkeepers have figured out his once potent strategy, to a point where the Belgian has unsuccessfully changed his tact.
In a season that has seen Hazard yet to score for Chelsea and bag only two assists, his rotten form seems to be coinciding with his new erratic inaccuracy from 12 yards.
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