Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard scores against Sunderland in their English Premier League match, December 4. Reuters
Jose Mourinho called the thrilling 4-3 win at Sunderland the "best away game" of the season, while terming Eden Hazard's sparkling two-goal effort as the "best performance" under the Portuguese.
Chelsea kept the pressure on leaders Arsenal with a nerve-wracking victory over bottom side Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
Jozy Altidore opened the scoring for Gus Poyet's men early in the first half, only for club record goalscorer Frank Lampard to equalise.
The Blues stormed into the lead through Hazard, who had earlier assisted in Lampard's goal, with the Belgian striking a brilliant solo effort into the bottom corner.
However, Sunderland would strike back early in the second half courtesy John O'Shea, but Hazard restored the lead with another nice finish, minutes after Fernando Torres had spurned an absolute sitter.
Phil Bardsley then bulged Chelsea's lead to 4-2 with an own goal before the Sunderland defender scored at the right end late on as the game finished a remarkable 4-3.
"We played a phenomenal game, our best game away from home," Mourinho said. "There was top quality, great creativity in the three attacking players behind Fernando and beautiful goals. Even the fourth goal was a great counter-attack.
"The game is about that, but it's also about basic things, and we failed in those basic things.
"The most basic is to defend set-plays. In a game where we should win clearly because of the way we played, we had a risk until the last second."
Hazard has showed glimpses of his brilliance this season, but hasn't really taken the Premier League by storm. Wednesday, though, showed the Belgian at his best, constantly running at the Sunderland defence, making them groan in despair every time the ball touched his feet, and creating chance after chance for his Chelsea side.
Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring a goal against Sunderland, December 4. Reuters
"It was his best performance playing for me," Mourinho acknowledged. "We know about the talent, but for the first time under me he showed ambition from the first to the last minute.
"He has great talent but sometimes he can disappear from games. Today, he was fantastic - getting the ball, attacking defenders, shooting. Him, (Juan) Mata and Willian were creative and dynamic. They gave to the team what they needed in terms of creation."
Sunderland might be rooted to the bottom of the Premier League table with just eight points from 14 games, but Mourinho, not a man easily moved, was pretty impressed with the Black Cats' performance on Wednesday.
"Sunderland are a good team -- good football, good spirit, amazing crowd," the former Real Madrid manager said. "They are fast with the wingers coming inside. I knew that it was going to be difficult. But when you play so well you have to win comfortably and not give a headache to the manager.
"This league is a league where any result can happen. Every point you get you should take with both hands."
Poyet admitted Sunderland had run into an "unplayable" Hazard, who eventually proved to be the difference. "Chelsea had to work very hard today to take the three points, and that makes me very proud," the former Chelsea player said.
"Hazard was unplayable. I don't remember a player performing at this level against me as a manager. We tried everything. We needed another football.
"We competed to the best of our ability against an exceptional team -- they had players today that are a different level -- and it was difficult for us to cope, but I'm sure every single fan can go home thinking at least one thing, that we tried today [Wednesday]."
Poyet believes if his side continue to perform in a similar manner then luck will eventually turn their way with the climb out of the desperate mires of relegation also quite possible.
"I would like to think that, if we play like today and we fight like today and we do it in the way we did, we should be OK by the end of the season," Poyet added.
"Can we do this every week? Can we have that spirit every week? It doesn't matter against who, it's up to you, yourself, as a player representing the football club."
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