Borussia Mönchengladbach fans witnessed Thorgan Hazard's coming of age in Matchday 28's 5-0 drubbing of Hertha Berlin.
The 23-year-old Belgium international forward's spellbinding display yielded two goals as Gladbach moved up to fourth in the standings, but also served as a timely reminder that immense potential does not necessarily guarantee overnight success.
Forging his own path
Looking to step out from under the shadow of older brother Eden, Thorgan joined Gladbach from Chelsea FC in summer 2014. He had been named Belgian Player of the Year for two seasons running during a previous loan spell at SV Zulte Waregem, but was determined to show the world he had the necessary skill set to cut it at a UEFA Champions League-level club.
Although Hazard did not disappoint - his deal was made permanent in February 2015 in a season that culminated in a notable third-placed finish - a handful of question-marks remained. How good is he? Can he deliver on a regular basis? Can he perform against Germany's best? Almost a year later, the answers are unequivocal.
'I want to score in every match'
Hazard's first goal of the afternoon on Matchday 28 and third in the Bundesliga came about after a mistake by Hertha goalkeeper Rune Jarstein had gifted possession straight to Mahmoud Dahoud, yet the finish was indicative of a player bristling with confidence, enjoying a run of nine successive appearances in the starting line-up. An indirect assist for Patrick Herrmann preceded his second of the afternoon, before he made way to a vociferous standing ovation with seven minutes remaining.
"It was a great game for me and the club," Hazard explained from inside a positively bouncing BORUSSIA-PARK. "It's been a long time since I scored two goals. I'm really happy about it. I've missed a few chances, but I've never given up. I always keep my focus and I want to score in every match. This time I was able to help the team. It wasn't easy at the start because the Bundesliga is more intense than the Belgian league, but I'm feeling better know."
Born to run
The statistics give substance to Hazard's sprightly disposition. So far this season, the one-time Belgium international has averaged more sprints per game than any of his Foals stablemates (31) and has weighed in with 38 shots on goal, putting him third on the Gladbach ladder behind Raffael and Lars Stindl. He also had a direct hand in ten of Borussia's 17 efforts on goal against Hertha alone, while only the equally dynamic Dahoud covered more ground.
The pace, creativity and end product make for an explosive combination, but it is the slow-and-steady approach that may just win Hazard the race for superstardom and Gladbach the neck-and-neck battle for one of the two remaining spots in next season's Champions League.
Tobias Gonscherowski/Christopher Mayer-Lodge