Matchday 4 of the UEFA Champions League and the ride was not as smooth as it was expected to be. The Slovenians played with attacking defiance while making it difficult at the back for Chelsea’s attacking contingent. While a win would have booked Chelsea’s tickets to the last 16, only a draw was what Chelsea managed.
However, there were a few positives Chelsea could take from the game. And most of those positives were engendered at the feet of one player; Eden Hazard, who is our Man of The Match in Chelsea vs NK Maribor.
“When a player plays as well as Eden Hazard did – for me he was absolutely fantastic, by far the best player in my team he can miss a penalty and still be the best player in my team,”
– said Jose Mourinho.
Yes, he did miss a penalty when the clock was at 87 minutes. Yet, he was the best player on the pitch for Chelsea.
HAZARD: THE RUNNER
Eden Hazard has clearly learnt from last season, when Mourinho criticized him of not working hard enough for the team (specially while defending) after his lethargic performance against Atletico Madrid in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Hazard provided good cover to left-back Filipe Luis, tracking back whenever Ibraimi or Sallalich attacked from the right flank. Hazard was also very handy when it came to sweeping up any loose balls after Maribor’s set-pieces. His work rate throughout this season has been impressive, and it was no different in this match.
HAZARD: THE CHANCE CREATOR
Whatever chances Chelsea created, it invariably involved Hazard. From long range shots to snapshots from inside the box, from crosses in the box to winning corners, from drawing fouls outside the box to even winning the penalty, it all had Eden Hazard written on it, in bold letters. That Hazard had his penalty saved by the heroic goalkeeper Handanovic, was something totally different. Apart from the penalty miss, it was a mishap by the Chelsea players around Hazard that they could not convert the chances that he created.
HAZARD: THE RESPONSIBILITY TAKER
During the first half itself, one could see that the Chelsea players were not really in the groove they were expected to be. One might blame tiredness for it, but when you are a top team, trying to win multiple trophies, you can not complain. Jose Mourinho was so livid with the performance that he made all of his 3 substitutions by the hour mark. In these moments, it was Hazard who provided the spark during the business end of the second half. He took on the challenge, taking defenders on, driving into the box, dribbling through the crowd. It needed a foul inside the box to stop him which resulted in a penalty. Threading passes for Drogba and Costa. A half volley by Costa, saved by Handanovic, was also created by Hazard. His performance gave Chelsea players an impetus.
HAZARD: THE BEST
One can easily see from Hazard’s performances why he was the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year. He has been exceptionally consistent this season. If he carries on this form, he might win the Premier League Player of the Year this season while a Ballon d’Or may not be too far off in the future!!
Edited By: Vikram Vadiganeni