Asked about Eden Hazard’s impact after coming off the bench at half-time against Norwich, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho pointed to more than just the Belgian as a factor in an improved second half display.
After watching their Champions League dream unravel midweek at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s Premier League title challenge now also looks all but over.
A frustrating scoreless draw with Norwich at home means that the Blues will be ruled out of contention should Liverpool or Manchester City win their games in hand this week.
And the Blues’ drop off in the race for silverware has been set against the background of a row between Hazard and Mourinho via the media.
The PFA Young Player of the Year was at fault for Atletico Madrid’s equaliser last Wednesday as they went on to dump Chelsea out of Europe 3-1 on aggregate.
And the Belgian drew the ire of his manager for seemingly criticising his tactics in the aftermath, Mourinho hitting back by suggesting Hazard isn’t equipped to fight for the good of the team.
To top it all off, the Portuguese boss then dropped his young star to the bench for Sunday’s clash with Norwich.
But after a dour first half performance, Mourinho relented and brought Hazard on for the decisive 45 minutes. Chelsea were unable to break through, but the side unquestionably looked better with the 23-year-old on the pitch.
Still, Mourinho pointed to inspiration from elsewhere as well in his post-match interview, though he did mention Hazard’s influence.
Asked directly by Sky Sports whether Hazard had “brightened them up”, he said: “I think the team in the second half was much, much better.
“Much more intense. In the first half it was basically only Willian looking for the ball and trying to change the pace, creativity and dynamic of the game.
“In the second half, Hazard was the second one to do that.
“I have to say that David [Luiz] gave us a bit more intensity and it was much better in the second half.”