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Chelsea tames Man Utd

International Sports

Eden Hazard celebrates his 15th goal for the seasonEden Hazard celebrates his 15th goal for the seasonChelsea moved to within two wins of reclaiming the Premier League title after Eden Hazard's goal gave them a narrow victory over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Hazard's first-half finish gave Jose Mourinho's side three points and means that victory in forthcoming games at Arsenal and Leicester City will return the title to Stamford Bridge for the first time since 2010.

Chelsea were pushed all the way by a resurgent United, hunting a seventh successive Premier League victory.

Wayne Rooney and the recalled Radamel Falcao came closest for United but once again they fell victim to the resilience and defensive strength that is Chelsea's trademark under Mourinho, assisted by the brilliance of Hazard, and ended frustrated.

The reaction of Chelsea's players as referee Mike Dean sounded the final whistle, celebrating wildly in front of their supporters, suggested they believed this was the victory that has pushed them to the brink of glory, as they moved 10 points ahead of second-placed Arsenal.

And now, even if they do not wrap it up in these next two games, surely nothing can stop Mourinho winning the title in his second season after coming back to Stamford Bridge.

As for United, this defeat may have ended their recent winning streak but they once again produced compelling evidence that they are now a very different proposition from the side that struggled, even though they were grinding out results, earlier this season.

Manager Louis van Gaal, as expected, had to reshuffle his side after ruling out Michael Carrick, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind through injury.

Ander Herrera was utilised in the anchor role vacated by Carrick and Rooney was pushed into midfield - but United were still able to make the more impressive start and should have taken an early lead.

Rooney looked a certain scorer when he raced on to Luke Shaw's cross but placed his finish inches wide, so close that goalkeeper David de Gea joined United's fans in celebrating a goal until they realised after several seconds that the effort was off target.

Herrera was prominent as United looked the better side but, as ever, Chelsea were rock solid and resilient and took the first chance that came their way seven minutes before the break.

Falcao, given a rare start, was easily bundled off the ball by John Terry and when Oscar played in Hazard with a clever backheel he applied a cool finish between De Gea's legs. Van Gaal protested furiously to fourth official Craig Pawson that Falcao had been fouled but to no avail.

Chelsea almost doubled their lead early in the second half when Didier Drogba's shot was deflected over De Gea but Hazard could only turn the loose ball against the upright from an angle as he tried to complete the job at the far post.

United's recent improvement was underlined as they continued to take the game to Chelsea, keeper Thibaut Courtois blocking Paddy McNair's 20-yard shot and Oscar deflecting Rooney's precise effort inches wide.

Van Gaal introduced Angel Di Maria and Adnan Januzaj for Juan Mata and Ashley Young as they continued to carry the fight to Chelsea, who seemed content to protect their lead and hit on the break.

Falcao had worked hard but it had been another fruitless game and his frustration continued with 12 minutes left when he escaped from Kurt Zouma to collect Shaw's pass only to strike the outside of the post from a tight angle.

There was one last alarm for Chelsea when Herrera was cautioned for tumbling under Gary Cahill's challenge in the penalty area - and the scenes at the conclusion of an enthralling contest reflected the importance of this win.

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