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Eden Hazard scored a hat-trick as Chelsea moved to the top of the Barclays Premier League with 3-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho's men took advantage of Arsenal's heavy 5-1 defeat at Liverpool and Manchester City's goalless draw with Norwich City to leapfrog their title rivals.
And it was the attacking midfielder Hazard who proved to be the hero, producing a dazzling performance and taking his tally for the season to 14 goals with an impressive treble.
Hazard opened the scoring midway through the first half with an emphatic finish, and his second quickly followed as he rounded off a superb Chelsea breakaway after 34 minutes.
That ended the game as a contest but the former Lille man applied the gloss to a fine display with a penalty just after the hour mark.
Captain John Terry was left out for Mourinho’s side, who had the better of an open start to the game, Hazard's tame effort drawing a save from Tim Krul and Frank Lampard firing a free-kick just wide.
The Blues quickly began to dominate proceedings and perhaps should have taken the lead after 25 minutes when Oscar lashed a shot narrowly off target.
But just two minutes later they did make the breakthrough as Hazard curled into the bottom corner having collected a pass from Branislav Ivanovic, scorer of the winning goal at Manchester City.
Newcastle wasted a chance just after the half-hour mark, Moussa Sissoko - captain in the absence of the injured Cheick Tiote - denied by Petr Cech following a superb through-ball from Davide Santon.
And Alan Pardew’s side were punished almost immediately as Hazard finished off a marvellous counter-attack by surging into the box before playing a one-two with Samuel Eto'o and coolly slotting beyond Krul.
The London club continued to look fallible in defence and were grateful to Cech once more when he scrambled to prevent Luuk de Jong scoring on his full Newcastle debut with a close-range header.
But the away side’s problems mounted further five minutes before the half-time interval when Mathieu Debuchy limped off to be replaced by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa.
Chelsea almost extended their lead in bizarre fashion early in the second half as Krul lost his footing in an attempt to claim David Luiz's long ball forward, which bounced over his head before eventually rolling wide of the goal despite Oscar's determined chase to keep the ball in play.
Mike Williamson prevented Samuel Eto'o from scoring a third with a fine block before Krul kept out a stinging free-kick from Lampard. However, the third goal finally arrived on 63 minutes, Hazard converting from the spot in confident fashion after Yanga-Mbiwa had fouled Eto'o in the area.
Hazard then came off to a rousing standing ovation prior to a flurry of late chances, Krul denying substitute Mohamed Salah a first goal for Mourinho’s side, before Sylvain Marveaux somehow shot wide following a Newcastle counter at the other end.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "I know today we are top of the league but I look to fifth place. I look to Tottenham v Everton and Manchester United v Fulham tomorrow and I want to be far from fifth.
"When we are far from fifth and have a Champions League position under control, then it will be time to look at Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool and see where they are and see the distances.
"From that point, we can start thinking about other things."
Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew: "I thought we played very well with the players we had available. We had a chance at 1-0 to throw confusion into the game, but we missed that and they got the second.
"There are a few positives for ourselves – Sammy Ameobi, Paul Dummett and Luuk de Jong all gave performances to work with."
"They're a good team. Their work rate was phenomenal for a team with the technical ability they have. I've played against Chelsea teams under Mourinho many times and this is as good as he's had. They've got a good chance.
"The back four were tough, [Nemanja] Matic in front of them gives the stability for someone like Hazard to create the damage that he did.
"I thought his second goal was real class and he's at the top of his game. His work rate and everything else was excellent, and that's why he's a top player."
|22 Mar 2014||v Arsenal (H)|
|27 Apr 2014||v Liverpool (A)|
|01 Mar 2014||v Fulham (A)|
|05 Apr 2014||v Stoke (H)|
|08 Mar 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|19 Apr 2014||v Sunderland (H)|