herald

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Hazard keeps his head for leaders

Chelsea were made to dig deep to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at West Ham.

The Blues overcame a stern test of their title credentials thanks to Eden Hazard's first-half header and a string of fine saves from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

West Ham pressed all night but could not find the breakthrough as Jose Mourinho's men defended resoulutely, needing crucial interventions from the imperious Courtois and then Gary Cahill as the Blues survived a late onslaught to take all three points back across London.

Mourinho, who has never tasted defeat made just two changes to his League Cup-winning side for the trip to Upton Park with Courtois and Oscar starting but it was West Ham, who lost Winston Reid to injury in the eighth minute, looking the more likely to break the deadlock in the opening stages.

READ MORE: Hazard strikes as Blues stay ahead of the pack

Kevin Nolan was brought in to replace Alex Song for the hosts and he was instrumental in creating West Ham's first clear opening in the 18th minute, but Cheikhou Kouyate's shot was smartly saved by the onrushing Courtois.

West Ham were causing John Terry, who was booked for pulling back Enner Valencia, and Gary Cahill plenty of problems but could not take advantage as Diafro Sakho mis-kicked Kouyate's pass when shooting from inside the penalty area.

Despite looking the more likely West Ham switched of for a split second and were punished as Hazard (left) ghosted in behind the Hammers defence unmarked to head Ramires' cross past Adrian from five yards out in the 22nd minute.

The goal took all the sting out of the home side and they were caught napping again as Hazard released Diego Costa in on goal but just as he was lining up his shot, Carl Jenkinson recovered to make an excellent last-gasp tackle.

West Ham continued to test Chelsea's back four after the break but despite their best efforts, failed to make the vital breakthrough.

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