Eden Hazard set up an early goal and then scored for the first time since October to lead Chelsea to a 2-1 win over Brighton in the Premier League on Sunday. Playing in a “false nine” role in Chelsea’s attack for the second straight game, Hazard laid on the opener for Pedro Rodriguez with a low center across the six-yard box in the 17th minute.
A mistake by Brighton defender Leon Balogun led to Hazard’s goal in the 33rd, with Willian cutting out a pass from the back and playing the ball through for Hazard to run clear and finish low from just inside the area.
Hazard last scored against Southampton on Oct. 7 and could continue in his new role at the center of a diminutive and mobile front three, between Pedro and Willian. It was an approach Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri used to great effect when in charge of Italian team Napoli in his previous job.
“I always play with the same ability and quality,” Hazard said. “As a winger and striker, I just try to enjoy my football.”
Outplayed in the first half, Brighton improved after the break and reduced the deficit when Solly March turned in a shot from close range in the 66th. Chelsea moved seven points behind first-placed Manchester City, which it beat last weekend to end the defending champion’s unbeaten start to the season. Hazard set up two goals against City.
“We want to be top of the league at the end of the season,” Hazard said. “We know Man City and (second-placed) Liverpool are good teams _ we don’t want the gap to be big.”
Arsenal’s unbeaten run ends with 3-2 loss at Southampton
Arsenal’s 22-game unbeaten run in all competitions came to an end with a 3-2 loss at Southampton in the Premier League on Sunday, with Charlie Austin’s 85th-minute goal sealing a first win for new Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuettl.
Arsenal twice came from behind through goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and looked like preserving an undefeated streak in the league stretching back to Aug. 18, a stretch of 14 games. But Shane Long got free down the right and sent in a cross that went over Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno and was headed in at the far post by Austin. It was a winning goal that lifted Southampton out of the relegation zone with 17 of 38 matches gone.
Danny Ings had earlier put Southampton ahead on two occasions with headers, taking advantage of poor positional play from Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny, who was making his first league start since April after a serious knee injury.
Hasenhuettl took over from the fired Mark Hughes and lost his first game in charge, at Cardiff last weekend. He celebrated the win by running onto the field and leaping into the air in delight.
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