Hazard strikes to edge out Cherries
- Craig Pawson
A sole goal from Eden Hazard earns Chelsea the points in a 1-0 win over AFC Bournemouth on Saturday evening.
The champions didn't take their chances in the first half but the mercurial Belgian marksman buried a low shot early in the second to give Chelsea the lead.
Bournemouth responded with pressure but facing a resolute defensive force were unable to create the clear cut chance they needed to level the contest.
Jermain Defoe and Steve Cook came back into the starting 11 for the match, Eddie Howe switching to a back three and matching up with the backline of the visitors.
Following a minute's silence to mark the Cherries' final home match before Remembrance Day, the game got under way in mild and still light conditions at Vitality Stadium.
Asmir Begovic, lining up against his second former side in successive weeks, claimed an early cross as Chelsea started the contest in a confident vein, Pedro firing yards over in the ninth minute.
Benik Afobe masterminded the Cherries' first meaningful attack as he slid in Charlie Daniels and was alert to the left-back's returned pull back, the striker's goal-bound shot blocked behind for a corner.
The hosts and Begovic received a sizeable let off when the 'keeper miskicked a clearance straight to Hazard. The Belgian played Alvaro Morata in on goal, but with just Begovic to beat the striker placed a shot the wrong side of the post.
The Cherries 'keeper then saved comfortably from Tiemoue Bakayoko's header, the away side soon having the ball into the net from Morata, though a Chelsea attacker was offside in the build-up.
The game becoming increasingly open, Morata was frustrated again. His fine footwork opened room for a shot in the area, Begovic diverting the ball wide with his outstretched left arm to make a fine save.
Some slick Bournemouth passing from a short corner played Simon Francis into space, the defender flashing in a ball that was desperately headed away by David Luiz.
Chelsea continuing to pressure the home goal, Cesc Fabregas had two quickfire shots blocked by Steve Cook, the Cherries holding onto parity ahead of referee Craig Pawson's half-time whistle.
Jordon Ibe came on to replace Defoe to start the second period, with Afobe moving into a central striking role. Lewis Cook fired over from range as the Cherries got an early shot away.
However, it was Hazard who opened the scoring in the 51st minute.
A ball over the top was missed by the swinging boot of Francis, and the defender's slip allowed Hazard to thrust in on goal. The Chelsea attacker struck early and with power to get his shot past Begovic.
Ibe came close to striking back as his drive was deflected just over by Antonio Rudiger.
The Cherries' push was on, but as Junior Stanislas sped forwards with the ball he pulled up abruptly, was soon feeling his groin and was immediately replaced by Marc Pugh.
Hazard was close to his potent best and could have doubled his tally when he skied an effort from 12 yards, while a swift interchange allowed Pedro to fire, though only at Begovic, from the area's edge.
Callum Wilson - who scored on his Carabao Cup return on Tuesday night - was brought into the action inside the final 20 minutes after Afobe needed replacing as the latest Cherries injury casualty.
Immediately into the fray, Wilson fed Ibe into the box, continuing his run but seeing his shot blocked as the ball came back his way.
Bournemouth had their visitors on the back foot, though Fabregas threatened with a shot that drifted marginally over the bar.
Into the four minutes of additional time and the Cherries were continuing to make headway, some bright build-up clearing the way for Steve Cook - pushed up as a makeshift centre-forward late on - to swing in a shot that Thibaut Courtois was able to gather, the home side's final chance to gain a point from the contest.