Antonio Conte confirmed that Eden Hazard was not injured and that his withdrawal against Manchester United was purely ‘tactical’ as Chelsea were beaten 2-1 at Old Trafford.
The Italian tactician made the bold decision to take off the Belgium international midway through the second half, with the game finely poised at 1-1.
Moments after he was replaced by Pedro, Jose Mourinho’s team took the lead, with substitute Jesse Lingard heading home a Romelu Lukaku cross to wrap up all three points for the Blues and leave their top-four hopes in tatters.
But Conte insisted that everyone in his team has to ‘work with the ball and without the ball’, suggesting that the 27-year-old wasn’t putting in enough of a shift away from home.
When asked if Hazard’s withdrawal was due to injury, he responded: ‘It was a tactical decision. ‘We have to keep the same performance for 90 minutes, and we didn’t have a great balance.
‘Every single player has to work with the ball and without the ball.’ When pressed further on the situation, Conte suggested that the Belgian was suffering from fatigue.
‘No I think he had finished his energy,’ he added. ‘In the first half he ran a lot, second in the same way but when I see that a player is tired you have to change the situation.’
Hazard did provide an assist for Willian’s opener but goals from Lukaku and Lingard saw it count for nothing as United moved back into second place, leaving Chelsea outside the Champions League spots.