As an Asian sports journalist, I get to watch quite a bit of football for a living. That might sound like a bit of a dream job but there have been some late night shifts when I have watched televised games from the Middle East, wondering about my choice of profession.
At times, I may have to watch two or three games being played simultaneously which is a bit of a double-edged sword. Because while you want to watch plenty of end-to-end action, you don’t want too much going on at the same time that will make it hard to keep up.
Such was the case last week when I watched three penalties being awarded in a short span of time at three different grounds in Qatar, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Which wouldn’t have been all that noteworthy except that all three were missed.
In Doha, the effort went wide. In Esfahan, the shot was ballooned over the crossbar. And in Mecca, the goalkeeper made a good diving stop to tip the effort past his post.
Watching those three players failing from 12 yards in such short order was in stark contrast to what I had seen just a couple of days earlier when Eden Hazard unerringly stroked the ball past Hugo Lloris with his spot kick in the 4-0 demolition of Tottenham Hotspur at the Bridge.
Given the calamitous nature in which Spurs conceded the other three goals in that game, it will probably be the least remembered of the goals when we look back on that match in the years to come.
But it was still notable for the confidence and composure shown by the Belgian as he slotted the ball into the net for his 13th Premier League goal of the season.
What I found most interesting about that spot kick was a TV graphic that popped up just moments before he took it, which showed the location of the five previous penalties that he had taken for the Blues.
All five were low and to the left or right of the goalkeeper including his lone miss against Danish side Nordsjaelland in the Champions League in December 2012.
Not surprisingly, he did the same thing that he has done before, outsmarting Lloris by waiting for the goalkeeper to make the fatal first move before tucking the ball into the opposite corner.
Hazard was already a very good penalty taker before he arrived at the Bridge but as with everything else that we have seen from the Belgian this season as he had gone from being a precocious young talent to one of the best players in the world, he has now honed his ability from the penalty spot into an art.
So good is his ability now from 12 yards that it does appear that when Frank Lampard ceded responsibility to Hazard for the spot kick against Newcastle in February so that he could try and complete his first hat-trick for the club, the veteran was also handing over the mantle of Chelsea’s main penalty taker to the Belgian.
If that truly is the case, then Hazard is following in the footsteps of three of the most clinical spot-kick exponents who have played for the club.
Lampard has shown his class as a penalty taker for both club and country for the past decade and while he has missed a couple here and there, his accuracy from the spot has been a foundation on which much of Chelsea’s recent success had been built.
Before Lampard, there was Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink who generated so much power on his shot that he hardly needed a run-up before slamming his penalties into the net.
And before that, there was Frank Leboeuf, who was so accurate from 12 yards that I can recall him missing just one penalty during his five years with the Blues.
Hazard’s technique may differ from the other three in that he seems to prefer to outthink rather than to overpower the goalkeeper from the penalty spot. But that won’t matter too much to Blues fans as long as he keeps putting them away when he is given the chance.
Please note : the views in many of our blogs are written by fans of Chelsea FC and are not necessarily the views of the club