Jerome Tan wins three in a row
Neil Humphreys: Hazard for ALL Footballer of the Year titles
Hazard must win all Footballer of the Year honours
CHELSEA 1 (Eden Hazard 38)
MAN UNITED 0
Eden Hazard will now win a personal treble this season.
The inevitable English Premier League medal should sit snugly beside the Footballer of the Year trophies from both the Professional Footballers' Association and the Football Writers' Association.
The Chelsea winger's decisive goal and peerless performance against Manchester United yesterday morning (Singapore time) confirmed his coronation.
Jose Mourinho said it best in the post-match interview. He doesn't care if his opponents have 99 per cent possession. He still expects victory.
He has Hazard.
The Belgian is built for speed, but boasts the stamina of an Ethiopian marathoner. His Footballer of the Year rivals have all tumbled at some point, but Chelsea's bearded wonder won't quit.
Arsenal's Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez, Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, United's David de Gea and Tottenham's Harry Kane have all shone, but there were cloudy, frosty spells.
In Hazard's dressing room, he's had a few colleagues all channelling their best Marlon Brando. They had class. They could've been contenders.
Diego Costa's initial EPL performances looked like scenes from the Running of the Bulls. He didn't beat opponents. He ran them over.
He was usually chasing a pass from Cesc Fabregas, who found people faster than a private detective, while Nemanja Matic ran the rearguard.
By Christmas, the Serb's name was as good as inscribed on the Footballer of the Year trophies.
But the trio faded. Injuries and suspensions curtailed their progress and disrupted their rhythms. Chelsea's creative department was perilously close to shutting down.
With batteries in need of recharging, the impish Duracell Bunny kept on going.
The Blues were once accused of having a PlayStation footballer controlled by an erratic 10-year-old. Now they have the real deal.
But Hazard is no David Luiz. He's not a clown, but an emerging colossus. He's always on screen, always in shot, chasing lost causes and patrolling the left side from front to back.
The 24-year-old has made void-deck football a Premier League reality. He dominated Stamford Bridge like kids messing around on the HDB concrete.
He was everyman, in defence and attack, beginning moves and finishing them. The United game was his season in microcosm. While others faltered, he sustained his form with little fanfare.
He is rarely overwhelmed by the occasion. Big games bring out the best in him.
Back in January, he scampered through the space left by Manchester City and hit a superb volleyed cross, on the run, to present Loic Remy with a simple tap-in. The 1-1 draw maintained the five-point gap at the summit.
Against Arsenal in October, Hazard earned and scored the penalty that knocked the wind out of the Gunners' billowing sails.
Branislav Ivanovic might have headed in the extra-time winner in the League Cup semi-final against Liverpool, but Hazard won the free-kick.
In those close contests, the Belgian was an integral part of an aggressive, counter-attacking collective. Now he's carrying the Blues home.
His strike against United was his fifth goal in his last seven games. Four of those came in contests decided by a single goal. Hazard may not be entirely winning matches on his own. But Chelsea would be lost without him.
He's overcompensating for Costa and Remy's injuries and Fabregas' alarming inconsistency.
At Stamford Bridge yesterday, Didier Drogba's ageing body was weak, but Hazard's legs were still willing.
Apart from his winner, he flicked a karate kick onto the post, doubled up to support Cesar Azpilicueta and humiliated Wayne Rooney not once, but twice.
Hazard pulled away from his man gracefully, effortlessly. Rooney looked like he was pulling a tugboat.
The Belgian also gives his manager something close to immunity from public persecution.
Mourinho emphasised the importance of strategy and result over all other idealistic considerations. Others can have the plaudits and the possession stats. Mourinho focuses only on strategy and result.
Hazard gives him both. He nips away at a winger's ankles like a Jack Russell terrier and then spins away from his markers like Billy Elliot.
The dour, defensive elements of Chelsea's game remain, but Mourinho can still have his Belgian cake and eat it.
He gets the best of both worlds with Hazard, who is quietly being moulded into the complete Mourinho footballer - always creative, always in control.
His artistry is functional. It serves the manager's strategy. It's rarely indulgent.
Mourinho has little patience for magicians who dazzle brightly and disappear just as quickly.
Mavericks must come with more than a box of tricks. They must bring stamina.
And, in Hazard, Mourinho has found his marathon man.
"It is always good to win against United at Stamford Bridge. We are close to finishing the season and winning the trophy, but it is not finished - we have to win two or three more games. When you play in the EPL, it is very difficult, and you never know in football."
Scoring his 18th goal of the season, a new personal record:
"Every season, I try to beat the score from before. When the goal brings the three points, it’s always good. It was a good goal between the legs. I could’ve scored another one, but I hit the post."
LAST NIGHT’S RESULTS
- Man City 2 West Ham 0
- Newcastle 1 Tottenham 3
Merritt leads by three
Hammer blow for real
Midfielder Modric set for long injury lay-off
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It needed eight people to pull dogs off
Jack russell terrier dies after attack by 2 mongrels
What would have been a regular dog walking turned grisly when a Jack Russell was bitten by two dogs twice its size one evening.
The attack happened so swiftly and silently that foreign domestic worker Jothilakshmi Mohan Kumar, 41, only found out when she looked back to check on Ranee the Jack Russell.
It took eight people to separate the Jack Russell from the two big dogs, which are of mixed breeds and whose owners live in the neighbourhood.
The big dogs were unleashed and had apparently escaped due to their owners' broken gate.
The attack left Ranee with puncture wounds on the intestines, five days after the attack, she died.
Ranee's owners are concerned that these mongrels may pose a safety issue in the neighbourhood.
"Ranee was very dear to us. What's going to happen if it was a baby or the elderly? They won't be able to survive the bite," said Madam Gloria Koh, 56.
Read the full report in our print edition on April 20.
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