EDEN Hazard fired Chelsea to a convincing 3-0 win over Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
Hazard scored a hat-trick for Jose Mourinho’s title-challenging side, who took control of the game late in the first-half after a bright start from an injury-hit United, who missed combative midfielder Cheik Tiote.
The defeat was compounded by the calf injury suffered by defender Mathieu Debuchy, who will miss Wednesday night’s home game against Tottenham Hotspur.
Newcastle, looking to put last weekend’s Tyne-Wear derby defeat behind them, made a robust enough start at Stamford Bridge.
And the enterprising Hatem Ben Arfa – who twice tested goalkeeper Petr Cech – was a threat going forward, but Chelsea got the upper hand when the supberb Hazard came to the fore midway through the first-half.
Goalkeeper Tim Krul did well to stop a Hazard cross meant for Samuel Eto’o in the 26th minute,
And Oscar should have done better with a glorious chance two minutes later.
But Chelsea’s breakthrough wasn’t long in coming.
Hazard played a one-two with over-lapping right-back Branislav Ivanovic before beating Krul with a precise shot.
United had a chance to equalise in the 33rd minute after Santon set free Moussa Sissoko with a fine ball, but the advancing Cech blocked his shot.
And that missed opportunity was to prove costly.
Chelsea defended thet resulting corner and broke upfield to score their second, with Hazard this time exchanging passes with Eto’o before applying the finishing touch.
Newcastle lost Debuchy – who had been limping for some time after being kicked on the calf – before the break.
A slip from Krul almsot saw David Luiz score from his own half, and the Holland international needed treatment after appearing to hurt his foot.
Chelsea’s third came from the penalty spot after Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, on for Debuchy, hauled down Eto’o at a corner.
Hazard converted the kick to complete his hat-trick.
Chelsea debutant Mohamed Salah – who came off the bench – almost marked his first appearance with a goal, but Krul was equal to his shot.
Sissoko was fortunate to escape a red card for a reckless sliding challenge on Salah in the dying minutes.
The result saw Chelsea climb to the top of the league. United remain in eighth.
CHELSEA: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, D Luiz, Azpilicueta; Matic, Lampard; Willian (Salah, 78), Oscar, Hazard (Schurrle, 85); Eto’o (Ba, 71). Subs not used: Schwarzer, Cole, Mikel, Ramires.
NEWCASTLE UNITED: Krul; Debuchy (Yanga-Mbiwa, 40), Williamson, S Taylor, Dummett; Anita (Marveaux, 84), Santon; Ben Arfa (Gosling, 64), Sissoko, Sammy Ameobi; de Jong. Subs not used: Elliot, Haidara, Shola Ameobi, Armstrong.
Goals: Hazard 27, 34, 63
Bookings: Sammy Ameobi 49, Yanga-Mbiwa 60
Referee: Howard Webb (Sheffield)