LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea recovered from their shock weekend defeat with Eden Hazard’s double securing a nervy 2-1 victory over Manchester City that maintained a seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
Their home loss to Crystal Palace on Saturday re-ignited the title race but Chelsea responded with a gritty display to keep second-placed Tottenham Hotspur — 3-1 comeback winners at Swansea City — safely at arm’s length with eight games left.
Hazard’s deflected shot gave the hosts a 10th-minute lead although City keeper Willy Caballero should have saved it.
Sergio Aguero leveled with a tap-in after 26 minutes following a poor clearance by keeper Thibaut Courtois but Hazard restored Chelsea’s lead against the run of play in the 35th with a rebound after his weak penalty was saved by Caballero.
Fourth-placed City dominated possession in the second half and skipper Vincent Kompany, starting a league match for the first time since November, looped a header on to the bar.
With news of Tottenham’s late revival in Wales filtering through, there was palpable tension in the air and a huge sigh of relief swept Stamford Bridge in stoppage time when City defender John Stones blazed over with the goal gaping.
It was hardly a flowing performance by Antonio Conte’s long-time leaders but the title is edging ever closer.
Pep Guardiola’s City, for all their slick inter-play, are now looking anxiously over their shoulders at Arsenal and Manchester United after four games without a win.
Chelsea have 72 points from 30 matches to Tottenham’s 65 ahead of Liverpool in third place on 60, having played a game more, followed by Manchester City with 58, then Arsenal and Manchester United on 54, both having played a game less.
If Chelsea do secure the title for the second time in three years, Hazard’s contribution will be key.
The Belgian now has 13 league goals this season — 10 of them scored at the Bridge.
Yet the two he scored on Wednesday were memorable only for their importance to Chelsea’s cause.
His 10th-minute shot from Cesar Azpilicueta’s pull back packed no real venom but it glanced off Kompany which seemed to fool Caballero who failed to keep the ball out.
Courtois’s mistake for City’s 26th minute leveler was even worse. The Belgian’s clearance went straight to David Silva and, though the keeper saved the Spaniard’s shot, the rebound was gobbled up by Aguero for his 15th league goal of the season.
Courtois redeemed himself with a great save to deny Leroy Sane as City took charge, but the visitors’ momentum was curtailed when Fernandinho — one of two City players sent off in Chelsea’s 3-1 win at the Etihad in December — clumsily fouled Pedro in the area to give away a penalty.
Hazard’s weak spot kick was saved by Caballero but the ball fell kindly for the Belgian to tuck away the rebound.
Chelsea rarely threatened after the break but Gary Cahill and David Luiz were rocks at the heart of the defense as the hosts completed a double over City.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris