LONDON: Eden Hazard has been reborn under Antonio Conte. The Belgian, Footballer of the Year in England in 2015, was considered one of the “rats” whose poor form last autumn brought about the downfall of Jose Mourinho. Now he is back at his best. He underlined the point by scoring twice in the 5-0 defeat of Everton which took Chelsea top above Manchester City.
The win was Chelsea’s fifth in a row, while scoring 16 goals and conceding none, since new manager Conte reversed a form fade by switching to his favourite three-man defensive line. The result on Saturday was Chelsea’s clearest league win since January 2015 and Everton’s worst beating in seven years.
This time last year Mourinho’s champions were 15th with 11 points from 11 games; victory over Ronald Koeman’s Everton took them to 25 from the same number of matches. Hazard, who scored only four league goals all last term, has scored seven already and could say: “I am enjoying my football.”
The other Chelsea goals were all Spanish from Marcos Alonso (his first for Blues), Pedro and Diego Costa. The latter thus became the league’s top scorer with nine for the season so far.
Manchester City suffered a hangover after their magnificent midweek victory over Barcelona. They dominated all 90 minutes against promoted Middlesbrough but conceded a 1-1 draw to a stoppage-time equaliser from Martin de Roon.
Earlier Sergio Aguero had scored his 150th goal for City on a a Kevin De Bruyne assist but both players wasted chances to kill off the game. Otherwise he was stifled by an impeccably organised Boro. Visiting manager Aitor Karanka knows Aguero well: he was assistant coach at Real Madrid when Aguero was scoring freely for neighbours Atletico.
City manager Pep Guardiola described himself as “sad” after a third successive home league draw because “we deserved better than that.” Man of the match was his old Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, superb for Boro.
There was no place in City’s matchday squad for Yaya Toure even though the Ivory Coast midfielder finally apologised to Guardiola for agent Dimitri Seluk’s critical comments about the manager at the start of the season.
Toure has not played since a 1-0 Champions League win over Steaua Bucharest in August. However Seluk himself remained defiantly unapologetic.
David Moyes, exiled in the directors’ box because of a touchline ban, celebrated his first win as Sunderland manager with a 2-1 success at Bournemouth. It was his first Premier success since Manchester United won 4:0 at Newcastle on April 5, 2014.
Things were far from straightforward, the Cherries taking an early lead through Dan Gosling and Sunderland’s Steven Pienaar was sent off after the scores were tied through Victor Anichebe.
But 10-man Sunderland battled for a result they sorely needed and took the points thanks to Jermain Defoe’s penalty in the 74th minute.
At Turf Moor another last-gasp winner handed Burnley three points and a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace.
Sam Vokes netted inside two minutes and the Clarets doubled their lead with less than a quarter-of-an-hour gone, Johann Berg Gudmundsson hitting the target.
Palace fashioned a comeback when Connor Wickham scored with his first touch and Christian Benteke levelled from the penalty spot.
But Ashley Barnes won it for Burnley in added time, lifting his side into the top half and condemning Palace to a fourth successive defeat.
Stoke made it six games unbeaten with a 1-1 draw at West Ham.
The Hammers broke the deadlock in the 65th minute, Glenn Whelan with an own-goal that was initially awarded to Michail Antonio – but Stoke levelled 10 minutes later.
Bojan Krcic was on hand with the finish, his first since August 20.
** Paul Lambert has become manager of second division strugglers Wolves in place of Italian Walter Zenga who was sacked after only 89 days.
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