Eden Hazard strikes to punish Bournemouth
Hazard’s first Premier League goal of the season earns all three points for Chelsea
Eden Hazard of Chelsea celebrates scoring his side’s winning goal against Bournemouth. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Bournemouth 0 Chelsea 1
Eden Hazard’s first Premier League goal of the season eased Chelsea past Bournemouth at Dean Court. The Belgium playmaker’s smart strike ensured Chelsea just about kept in touch with the league’s pacesetters, though the champions still trail leaders Manchester City by nine points.
Hazard rescued his side after a host of missed chances and an incorrectly disallowed goal for Alvaro Morata, with Cesar Azpilicueta ruled offside in error.
Asmir Begovic was caught out by Hazard’s near-post drive, that punished Simon Francis’ failed clearance without regard for Bournemouth’s early-season peril at the wrong end of the table.
Bournemouth compounded their worst start to a Premier League season, and lost Jermain Defoe, Junior Stanislas and Benik Afobe to injury on a stark day for boss Eddie Howe. Callum Wilson made his first appearance since January after successive knee surgeries, but this was a day light on plus points for the Cherries.
Josh King’s absence with a back problem could now leave Wilson as Bournemouth’s only fit striker - and the former Coventry man is not yet at full fitness.
Chelsea wasted a hatful of first-half chances, but still had the officials to thank for turning round goalless. Morata tucked away the rebound after Azpilicueta blasted straight against Begovic, but the assistant incorrectly judged the Spanish defender offside.
The Blues had no business serving up that error as excuse for their profligacy, especially Morata, who fluffed a cast-iron sitter. Begovic passed straight to Hazard 25 yards out, and the Belgium star played in Spain forward Morata. But the ex-Real Madrid man rolled his effort wide.
Begovic saved well from Morata after a fine Hazard flick, while Tiemoue Bakayoko - blue hair and all - headed a corner straight at the home keeper. A curiously low-key half yielded precious few openings for Bournemouth, but Afobe was left to rue a puzzling call to play in Charlie Daniels when he should have fired off a shot on goal.
The former Wolves man was clean through and ought to have at least tested Thibaut Courtois. Instead Daniels had to chase the over-hit pass and conjure a solid cut-back. But that delay let Chelsea reset their defence, and they duly cleared Afobe’s eventual effort on goal.
An obviously struggling Defoe did not reappear after the break, and Howe pitched in Jordon Ibe rather than throw on Wilson, who continues to work back to full fitness after successive knee ligament surgeries.
The hosts started the half brightly enough, but were floored by Hazard’s crisp strike. Francis bungled a clearance to gift Hazard the opening, and Begovic should not have been beaten at the near post.
Ibe should have equalised with a half volley from 16 yards, but Antonio Rudiger produced a fine block to deflect the ball over the bar.