Eden Hazard scored the goal Jose Mourinho’s style needed, and Chelsea held on to beat Manchester United 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Hazard latched onto an Oscar pass and slotted home in the 38th minute, and Mourinho’s defense-first strategy did Serie A proud in the win, as Chelsea moves 10 points clear of No. 2 Arsenal with six matches to play for each club.
United stays third, one point behind the Gunners.
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Wayne Rooney looked to have put United in front with a fifth minute shot, but it sailed wide of the goal. David De Gea reacted in celebratory fashion at the other end as the ball carromed into the back of the netting.
United kept play in Chelsea’s end in the early stages, which isn’t a surprise given Jose Mourinho opted to play center back Kurt Zouma in the midfield. It was a cautious approach for Mourinho, and one he’s used with Gary Cahill at times as well.
Then came Hazard, who may be the most complete attacking threat in the Premier League. The 23-year-old Chelsea man made a great run and was found by Oscar before slipping the ball under De Gea. Chris Smalling will not like replays of the giveaway which led to the goal.
United was credited with 70 percent possession through 45 minutes of play.
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A big giveaway from Ander Herrera sprung Didier Drogba in the 54th minute, and his hard shot popped over De Gea but was angling wide when Hazard’s acrobatic end-line kick hit the crossbar and was eventually cleared.
Luke Shaw became a problem for Chelsea moving forward, as his left flank runs challenged the Blues back line. Van Gaal looked to add attack with Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj entering the fray for Ashley Young and Juan Mata in the 70th minute.
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Ander Herrera earned a yellow after going head to head with Gary Cahill, who charged the United player after a stoppage time dive. Herrera dragged his back foot to catch Cahill and go down near the edge of the box.
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta, Zouma, Matic, Oscar (Ramires, 67′), Fabregas (Mikel, 90+2′), Hazard (Willian, 94′), Drogba
Goal: Hazard (38′)
Manchester United: De Gea, Valencia, Smalling, McNair, Shaw (Blackett, 80′), Mata (Januzaj, 70′), Rooney, Herrera, Young (Di Maria, 70′), Fellaini, Falcao