Eden Hazard ran half the length of the pitch, fending off Arsenal's brittle resistance, to score a mesmerizing solo goal as Chelsea coasted to a 3-1 victory on its charge to the Premier League title.
LONDON (AP) — Eden Hazard ran half the length of the pitch, fending off Arsenal's brittle resistance, to score a mesmerizing solo goal as Chelsea coasted to a 3-1 victory on its charge to the Premier League title.
A goal of such exceptional quality, between Marcos Alonso's header and Cesc Fabregas' lob into an empty net, embodied the leaders' transformation since a 3-0 loss in the reverse fixture in September.
That defeat saw an eight-point chasm open up between Chelsea, then in eighth place, and front-runner Manchester City. Now, Chelsea is 12 points in front of north London clubs Tottenham and Arsenal at the summit.
Coming four days after a home loss to Watford, it was another unsettling day for a bedraggled Arsenal and manager Arsene Wenger, who was forced to watch from the stands as he continued his four-match touchline ban for pushing a fourth official. The Frenchman was right in the middle of the celebrating Chelsea fans as Hazard produced a moment of magic eight minutes into the second half.
It was a fusion of strength, aggression and pace that four Arsenal players couldn't disrupt.
Hazard started the run from the center circle. Laurent Koscielny was the first opponent brushed aside and Francis Coquelin was left spinning, trying forlornly to put in a tackle before slipping to the turf.
Hazard just continued to zip forward. Koscielny had darted back in defense, but was as ineffective immobilizing Hazard a second time. Hazard weaved his way past the captain and then outmuscled Shkodran Mustafi before slotting a low shot past goalkeeper Petr Cech.
The Belgian international has 10 goals in 23 appearances this season, eclipsing last season's haul of four in 31. There was awe at the goal across the stadium: Owner Roman Abramovich was high-fiving people in his executive box and manager Antonio Conte flung himself into the crowd behind the dugout, swarmed by fans.
It was a day when they had much to celebrate, starting with Alonso's 13th-minute goal.
Diego Costa initially nodded a cross against the bar and Alonso darted in to meet the rebound with a header. The wing back had caught the side of Hector Bellerin's head with his arm as he leapt over the defender but he was not penalized. Following concussion protocols, a dazed Bellerin was forced off, injured.
Little went Arsenal's way at Stamford Bridge. Even the usually reliable Cech was exposed on his return to his former club. With five minutes to go, the goalkeeper's misplaced clearance went straight to former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, who chipped the ball into an empty net.
Arsenal's only achievement was denying Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois a clean sheet, with substitute Olivier Giroud heading in a stoppage-time consolation.