Chelsea's Ivanovic defends Hazard after fans' jeers

Reuters , Thursday 10 Mar 2016

Chelsea's Eden Hazard after he was substituted during his side's 2-1 Champions League second-leg defeat to PSG (Photo: Reuters)

Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic has defended team mate Eden Hazard who was jeered off the pitch by a small section of fans in Wednesday's last-16 Champions League defeat to French champions Paris St Germain.

Ivanovic said after the game that Hazard, whose halftime shirt swap with PSG's Angel Di Maria irked Chelsea's fans, was fully committed to the club.

Interim manager Guus Hiddink, who revealed that Hazard had played despite a hip injury, took the view in his post-match comments that Chelsea fans had the right to give vent to their feelings.

"They have the right to boo whatever they think," he told reporters.

"I didn't see (the shirt swap) but I am not saying I am unaware. That would be too easy, just to say I didn't see it. It should not be done. In some countries it's usual, but not till after the game."

Wednesday's British newspapers were critical of Hazard, last season's Footballer of the Year in England. The Daily Mail said: "So much for loyalty -- Eden Hazard controversially swaps shirts with PSG's Angel di Maria at half-time."

The Sun said: "Hazard swap shame in Blues KO".

Ivanovic said: "It's not an excuse but people have to think about the fact he started the game injured. Did that show how committed he is? Yes.

"Of course when you lose a game the fans are not happy and they have to be like that. But in my opinion it was one of his best performances so far.

"He was very strong and quick. He wanted to score and had a couple of actions where he looked like last season."

Having netted 19 times in all competitions last campaign, Hazard has scored just two goals in 38 appearances so far, leading to speculation over his future with suggestions that he is eager for a move to PSG.

Chelsea have gone on a 13-game unbeaten run in the Premier League under Hiddink, but their chances of chasing down fourth-placed Manchester City, who are 10 points ahead with a game in hand remain remote.

Wednesday's defeat could well have been their last Champions League game for at least 18 months as they are unlikely to qualify for the competition next season through their league position.

Chelsea's only hope of any silverware this season is by winning the FA Cup and they visit Everton in the quarter-finals on Saturday.

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