LONDON – Eden Hazard scored a brace on Monday to stake defending champions Chelsea to a 3-0 Premier League victory against West Bromwich Albion.
Yet the contest was not as lopsided as the score would indicate, with last-place West Brom playing like a team determined to avoid relegation.
The Blues, who began the match in fifth-place after two straight losses, were not impressive during the opening minutes at London’s Stamford Bridge, while the visitors showed surprising ambition on offense, even after losing striker Daniel Sturridge to injury in the 4th minute.
It was only after the Baggies twice threatened the Chelsea goal that the hosts seemed to become fully engaged, allowing the vast difference in talent between the two sides to become evident.
Hazard led the way, putting the Blues up 1-0 in the 25th minute with an assist from Olivier Giroud, making his first start since coming over from Arsenal.
Though Chelsea were dominant for the rest of the first half, West Brom showed no sign of throwing in the towel and their hopes were lifted in the 57th minute as Salomon Rondon let loose from close range, but goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois made the stop.
Even so, Jonny Evans nearly scored with a thunderous header on the ensuing corner and West Brom continued with the wind at their backs until the 63rd minute, when Victor Moses made it 2-0 for Chelsea after a give-and-go with Cesc Fabregas.
The third goal came eight minutes later courtesy of Hazard, with an assist from Alvaro Morata, back on the pitch after missing almost a month with back problems.
The win lifts Chelsea to fourth place, one fewer than third-place Liverpool and one more than Tottenham Hotspur.
West Brom are seven points from safety with 11 matches left.