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6 dribbles, 6 key passes - The clutch man behind Chelsea's hat-trick hero

Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the table to four points on Saturday, courtesy of brilliance from Eden Hazard.

A frustrating first half against Fulham left the match scoreless at the break, requiring a source of brilliance to decide proceedings in west London.

The Blues’ inspiration this term has most often come from the attacking midfield trio deployed behind a lone strikee - Andre Schurrle, Oscar and Eden Hazard selected at Craven Cottage as Willian was left on the bench.

It was the German who would stamp his mark on proceedings with a second half hat-trick, using intelligent runs off the ball to find space and capitalise on good service.

Schurrle was sharp-eyed in his pursuit of goals, taking eight shots en route to netting three times as Oscar and Hazard never once looked to trouble the goalkeeper.

PlayerTeamTotal Scoring AttGoals
Eden Hazard Chelsea 0 0
Oscar Chelsea 0 0
Andre Schürrle Chelsea 8 3

But it was Hazard who was the key to the former Bayer Leverkusen man’s success on the day, notching up six key passes and creating two big chances - both of which Schurrle converted.

As can be seen, Hazard was the chief - and truly only - architect of Jose Mourinho’s attacking trident throughout.

PlayerTeamBig Chance CreatedKey passes
Eden Hazard Chelsea 2 6
Oscar Chelsea 0 1
Andre Schürrle Chelsea 0 0

Oscar and Schurrle managed to play only one key ball between them, with the Belgian international also completing significantly more passes in the attacking third and taking more touches than the two throughout.

PlayerTeamTotal Final Third PassesTouches
Eden Hazard Chelsea 22 71
Oscar Chelsea 14 59
Andre Schürrle Chelsea 9 50

So often is the case that Hazard is able to work his magic in splitting apart defences in distribution due to his uncanny ability to beat his man, and Saturday was no different.

Six times he dribbled past an opponent - Schurrle and Oscar each doing so once each on their part - the most fruitful occasion coming when Hazard skipped past Jonny Heitinga with grace and took stock of his options to play Schurrle through for Chelsea’s second goal.

PlayerTeamWon Dribbles
Eden Hazard Chelsea 6
Oscar Chelsea 1
Andre Schürrle Chelsea 1

What the performance underlines once again is the influence Hazard holds over the Blues’ fortunes - something that’s become only increasingly more apparent over the course of his second term at Stamford Bridge.

Not to take anything from Schurrle - his finishing was clinical and positioning impeccable - but the Belgian is the one that continues to guide Mourinho’s ship in attack.

Aesthetically, Saturday’s showing wasn’t the best from Chelsea, Oscar was one that looked off the pace as Fernando Torres wasn’t particularly effective up top either, only highlighting the difference the killer instinct possessed by Hazard can have on a day such as this.

Better team displays will undoubtedly return for Mourinho’s side in the run-in as they hunt down the title, though the ace in the hole remains individual brilliance when it’s needed to pick off three points - something that could prove the difference in the race for top honours come May.

images: © Ronnie Macdonald, © Ben Sutherland

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