West Ham 0-1 Chelsea
GiveMeSport at the Boleyn Ground
Eden Hazard was the instrumental man once again for Chelsea as his side overcame West Ham to record what will likely prove a decisive victory in their pursuit of Premier League glory.
It was Hazard who scored the only goal, finding the net with an uncharacteristic header, and Chelsea are now eight points clear of Manchester City once more and it would appear almost certain that they will not be caught.
Hazard proved himself to be a cut above all before him this evening, as he so often does on a pitch for Chelsea, and it may be that individual honours follow the team ones for the Belgian this season.
He has probably been the best player in England this term, although that is certainly open to debate, and is so often Chelsea's most important, yet he can still offer more. So very much more.
Among the best
A player of such immense talent should be established unquestionably as the division's elite performer yet he stands out only very marginally when compared to his nearest rivals or, in the opinion of some, hardly at all.
Many would have it that Sergio Aguero in a full bill of health is in fact the most complete player in the league, while others may point to his teammate David Silva. Ask Brendan Rodgers, and he'll say that it is Philippe Coutinho who has surpassed all others during this campaign.
The summer departure of Luis Suarez from these shores offered an opportunity for Hazard to mark himself out as the Uruguayan's natural heir but, so far, the Chelsea attacker has failed to deliver as consistently as last season's player of the year.
More to come
There has often been talk that Hazard will proper himself to the same bracket as Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. It is something we have heard for some time, but there is not enough evidence yet to suggest it is an ambition soon to be achieved.
Here at Upton Park he was able to demonstrate his supreme skills on occasion, scything through the West Ham defence so fleet of foot and with such poise and balance while in command of the ball. Bring him down at your peril, although you must catch him first.
It is what makes Hazard a figure of such frustration. He has what is required to reach the pinnacle of the sport but is not displaying rapid enough progress. This is perhaps impatience from the observer, but born only from a desire to witness Hazard fulfil his talent.
A haul of 10 goals and six assists in the Premier League is good, but not great. By now he ought to be demonstrating more regular signs of becoming the latter. Time is, of course, on his side.
Hazard had the beating of West Ham in this Wednesday night encounter, and may have made the occasion far more comfortable for his side were he more willing to attack with that verve more regularly. It is a minor quibble, however.
Story of the night
In the end Chelsea were somewhat fortunate to clinch the maximum three points, and not only because Hazard should really have been flagged for offside when converting his header.
Chelsea did hit the post late in the second half, while Adrian pulled off one particularly fine save, but the action was, more often than not, at the opposite end of the field.
West Ham may not have carved out anything particularly clear cut but they will feel that a point and a goal should have really been theirs, and there would be some clout to that suggestion.
The fingertips of Thibaut Courtois, the legs of John Terry, the midriff of Gary Cahill, the head of Kurt Zouma - they all contributed to ensuring another clean sheet was the outcome for the leaders.
But the most decisive moment came from the Chelsea No.10 and here's hoping that is something said more often.
Do you think Eden Hazard is the best player in the Premier League? If not, then who is?
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