Eden Hazard is “one of the best in the world”, Chelsea assistant manager Gianfranco Zola said after the forward scored a stunning late winner against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup.
The Belgium international’s finish into the far corner with five minutes remaining sealed victory as Chelsea came from behind to end Premier League leaders Liverpool’s perfect start to the season and reach the fourth round.
Hazard was introduced as a substitute in the second half and although he was quiet for much of it, he burst into action by beating Alberto Moreno and smashing home.
“It’s a fantastic goal. Not only the beauty of it but for the time he scored it,” Zola said.
“Not only is Hazard one of the best in the Premier League – if not the best – but he is one of the best in Europe and the world.
“In my opinion we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He is remarkable.”
The Blues had been the better side in the first half with striker Alvaro Morata somehow striking a shot across the goalline and the Spaniard also nodded a free header over the crossbar.
Liverpool, who had won all seven games this season, took the lead through Daniel Sturridge’s well-executed hooked finish, just minutes after the England international missed a completely open net.
Chelsea levelled the contest through Emerson Palmieri’s close-range finish which needed intervention from the video assistant referee (VAR) to check for offside before being awarded.
Liverpool will be looking for revenge when the two sides meet again in the league on Saturday (kick-off 17:30 BST), while the fourth-round draw takes place on the same day at 21:00 BST.
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- Relive Chelsea’s win over Liverpool
Sarri’s super start
Despite winning the FA Cup last season under Antonio Conte, Chelsea replaced the Italian with compatriot Maurizio Sarri, who left Serie A side Napoli for Stamford Bridge.
The Blues were way off the pace in the league last term, finishing fifth, but have begun the new campaign in impressive style under Sarri.
They lost the Community Shield with a poor performance against Premier League champions Manchester City, but have shown quick progress by being unbeaten after six games in the top flight and lie two points adrift of leaders Liverpool.
Midfielder Cesc Fabregas controlled the play in the middle of the park early on and fellow Spaniard Morata – who looks bereft of confidence – should have taken one of his chances.
Having fallen behind, the Londoners did not panic and turned the game around with two goals in six second-half minutes, the second of which was an unstoppable strike by Hazard past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Hazard, who has five league goals so far, collected the ball wide on the right before drifting into the box, nutmegging Moreno and arrowing a thunderous shot into the net.
Hazard said: “This result will give us more confidence because we drew with West Ham four days ago. The game on Saturday [with Liverpool] is more important. We have got to try and beat Liverpool on Saturday.”
Although Liverpool have also made a flying start this term, winning all of their previous seven games, one of their four chances of claiming silverware at the end of the campaign has been ended at the first hurdle.
Hazard over Neymar? Yes please – analysis
Former Chelsea midfielder Andy Townsend on BBC Radio 5 live:
Hazard glides past people, it is effortless the way he can slide past people and he did it to great effect for the goal.
He was rested for kick-off but made the difference, it is a goal out of nothing – when it appeared there were little options. He drove in so well and hit it with so much power and accuracy.
That is why Hazard is valued around the £200m bracket and what you expect from him. I would rather have Hazard than [PSG forward] Neymar at the minute.
I am not disputing Neymar’s talents but in the Premier League you need to have strength, a desire to want to withstand tough challenges and the mental strength to turn up week in week out. I am sure Neymar could do it but we do not know.
If Hazard can just add some consistency to his goalscoring… He is a 20-goal-a-season man – he rarely gets there, and the very best on the planet – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – are up in the 60s. Hazard has been nothing like that, he is better than that and he is playing in a team which provide him [with the opportunity to do] that.
The way he has started the season, he will be very disappointed if he does not hit those numbers.
How did Fabinho do?
Brazilian midfielder Fabinho has managed just one minute of action for Liverpool since signing for £44m from Monaco in the summer.
Klopp had said the player needed time to adjust to English football because “the game is so quick and so intense” but he was given his first start in a Reds shirt.
Deployed in front of the back four, Fabinho kept his side ticking with neat passes – 52 in all – but showed he will take time to fully acclimatise when he was booked just short of the hour mark for a late challenge from behind on Morata.
With the home side in search of a goal, Fabinho was replaced by Mohamed Salah with four minutes remaining, but the Egyptian failed to make an impact.
Fabinho’s midfield partner Naby Keita also caught the eye with his pace and industry which Chelsea found difficult to deal with.
Keita, a £55m signing from RB Leipzig, continually burst forward and had a long-range drive collected by Willy Caballero and his next effort forced the Chelsea goalkeeper into a flying save.
And it was Keita’s curled effort which was parried by Caballero for Sturridge’s clever finish, but Liverpool were unable to keep hold of their lead.
“We knew how Chelsea wanted to play but we gave them too much space and weren’t compact enough,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “We still had the bigger chances in the first half.
“I think the first goal is offside. Three players are offside – two for sure. They watched it and didn’t think it was offside. We have to take it.
“This is good preparation for Saturday but we have to defend better.”
Hazard lights – the stats
- Chelsea’s Eden Hazard scored his sixth League Cup goal, with three of those coming as a substitute.
- Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge has scored 11 goals in his last 11 League Cup appearances.
- Liverpool have been eliminated at this stage of the League Cup in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1990-91.
Match ends, Liverpool 1, Chelsea 2.
Second Half ends, Liverpool 1, Chelsea 2.
Foul by David Luiz (Chelsea).
Joel Matip (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Álvaro Morata (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card.
Offside, Chelsea. David Luiz tries a through ball, but Álvaro Morata is caught offside.
Victor Moses (Chelsea) is shown the yellow card.
Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
Attempt blocked. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Eden Hazard (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
Substitution, Liverpool. Mohamed Salah replaces Fabinho.
Attempt blocked. Roberto Firmino (Liverpool) right footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Naby Keita.
Goal! Liverpool 1, Chelsea 2. Eden Hazard (Chelsea) right footed shot from the right side of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by César Azpilicueta.
Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) hits the bar with a left footed shot from outside the box. Assisted by Roberto Firmino.
Foul by N’Golo Kanté (Chelsea).
Naby Keita (Liverpool) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Delay over. They are ready to continue.
VAR: Goal. Referee decision on field stands.
Delay in match (Chelsea). Video Review.
Goal! Liverpool 1, Chelsea 1. Emerson (Chelsea) right footed shot from very close range to the centre of the goal following a set piece situation.
Attempt saved. Ross Barkley (Chelsea) header from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Eden Hazard with a cross.
Naby Keita (Liverpool) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Victor Moses (Chelsea) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Naby Keita (Liverpool).
David Luiz (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Jordan Henderson (Liverpool).
Offside, Chelsea. Cesc Fàbregas tries a through ball, but Álvaro Morata is caught offside.
Offside, Liverpool. Joel Matip tries a through ball, but Xherdan Shaqiri is caught offside.
Substitution, Chelsea. David Luiz replaces Andreas Christensen because of an injury.
Victor Moses (Chelsea) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Alberto Moreno (Liverpool).
Substitution, Liverpool. Roberto Firmino replaces Sadio Mané.
Offside, Liverpool. Daniel Sturridge tries a through ball, but Xherdan Shaqiri is caught offside.
Substitution, Chelsea. N’Golo Kanté replaces Mateo Kovacic.
Attempt missed. Xherdan Shaqiri (Liverpool) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.
Foul by César Azpilicueta (Chelsea).
Naby Keita (Liverpool) wins a free kick in the defensive half.