Chelsea nudged ahead of Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table as Eden Hazard’s hat-trick helped secure a come-from-behind 4-1 win over Cardiff City on Saturday.
The Belgium star needed just six first-half minutes to erase an early deficit and later returned to seal his treble from the spot as the hosts continued their perfect start to the new season.
Cardiff did fleetingly threaten an almighty upset thanks to Sol Bamba’s shock 16th-minute opener before Maurizio Sarri’s men took command on the way to a convincing fifth straight victory.
The in-form Hazard instigated a hasty turnaround that became a comfortable three points when Willian curled home seven minutes from the end, ensuring the Blues inched into top spot on goal difference.
Neil Warnock’s pre-match promise not to “shut-up shop” took shape when Bamba stunned an expectant Stamford Bridge crowd, prodding in defensive partner Sean Morrison’s header.
Neil Etheridge twice denied Mateo Kovacic an immediate response but could do little about Hazard’s unerring bottom-corner finish that restored parity.
The comeback was complete a minute before the break as Olivier Giroud’s gorgeous cushioned touch freed his team-mate to force a second in off Bamba at close range.
Cardiff remained in with a chance of extracting something from the match until substitute Willian arrived to end the resistance, first drawing a Bamba challenge that Hazard converted from the spot in the 80th minute, and then delightfully getting himself on the scoresheet by picking out the top right corner three minutes later.