West Ham v Chelsea Review: 2-1
The London Stadium, March 6th 2017.
4 of the last 5 Chelsea games vs West Ham have now ended 2-1 with both teams winning two each, the other one was a 2-2 draw at home in the premier league in 2016 as Chelsea wound down their abysmal season. At that point in that season Chelsea were in 10th place sitting on 41 points, guaranteeing their survival in England’s top flight. Chelsea are 25 points better off now in 1st place and look well en route to lift the premier league trophy at the end of the season (30 points better off than at this round of fixtures last season). Chelsea are also 6 points better off in this round of fixtures than in the 2014/2015 season when they won the league, albeit the gap between the nearest contenders is about the same as that time.
David Luiz and Pedro resumed their kick off routine to catch West Ham off guard as the defender’s long ball over the top beat West Ham’s defensive line to meet Pedro’s penetrative run. The move was well executed but the forward man failed to bring the ball under control and the move ended innocuously. Nevertheless it was a good indication of Chelsea’s intent early on. However in the early stages it would be West Ham who found more joy as the hammer’s wide men played in probing crosses into the box from wide areas to find the head of Andy Carroll but Azpilicueta and Moses marked him well enough. The barrage from West Ham continued until the 24th minute when following a free kick, N’golo Kante intercepted the ball and set off a brilliant counter attack that caught the opposition flat footed and out of position. Hazard latched on to Kante’s pass and drove forward with it at neck break speed, he then played a one-two with Pedro to beat the little defensive attentions paid to him and finding himself one on one with Randolph, he rounded the West Ham goal keeper and slotted home beyond the hopeful retreating defenders to make it 1-0.
The effort was Chelsea’s first of the game and it restored some possessional parity to the encounter but West Ham still had their chances. In the 40th minute Lanzini and Noble combined to drive past Fabregas and Kante easily which allowed Lanzini ample space for a shot or a pass into an unmarked Feghouli running into the box, Lanzini opted to shoot but blazed his effort well over. There was more action to come in this eventful half and next was Chelsea’s chance to double the lead. What looked a simple ball from defence into midfield from Gary Cahill turned to a goal scoring opportunity when José Fonte too eager stepped in front of Eden Hazard to intercept the pass, Hazard simply let the ball run and turned into open territory with no defender near to him. The Belgian perhaps should have gone for goal himself but chose the easier pass to Diego Costa who came rushing into the box. The pass was slightly behind him, but it fell kindly enough for Moses whose first time shot was blocked, the ricochet landed slightly awkwardly to Pedro’s feet and he volleyed it straight at goal but that too was saved by Randolph and that was the end of that opportunity.
Chelsea would have felt they should have scored more goals in the first half but would certainly have not been frustrated because they managed to create many chances. However, they also would have liked to avoid any souring upsets and as such sought to seal the game as early as possible. The second goal came early in the second half following a corner by Cesc Fabregas. The set piece was poorly defended and flicked off the head of a West Ham defender into the grateful laps of Diego Costa who only had to nudge it in from two feet off the goal line. It was a gut wrenching start to the half for the losing team who saw their task get incredibly more difficult. That goal eventually sealed the deal, but there was till 40 minutes to go andWest Ham to their credit, created a few nervy moments for the league leaders. Around the hour mark, a bizarreperiod off chances ensued from West Ham that seemed to span two whole minutes following a corner. The best of the lot came when Noble found plenty of room from inside the box to pick out a cross to an unmarked Feghouli but his subsequent shot was blocked by Victor Moses who was at the right place at the right time as Courtois had already been beaten. Following a few more crosses into the box, the ball was finally headed over the cross bar by Fonte and Chelsea survived. There were few more chance to add goals to this game and Chelsea had the best after another counter attacking move started by Kante made it’s way to Costa through Hazard however Costa’s short drew a smart save from Randolph to keep the score line 2-0. West Ham seemed spent and Chelsea continued to look the most likely to score and so it seemed the players were just bidding time, however there was more action to come as in the 91st minute West Ham scored a goal much to the fury of Thibaut Courtois. Azpilicueta gave away the ball through and errant pass into Fabregas who was not strong enough to see off the challenge on him. Ayew then charged into Chelsea’s scattered defence and released the ball out to the unmarked Lanzini who converted sharply pass Courtois. Thus, the clean sheet was not to be; the only souring on what was a sweet and comfortable victory for the league leaders, Chelsea.
Chelsea currently have 10 points on current second place team Tottenham, however Manchester City do have a game in hand which could bring them within 8 points of Chelsea. The rest of the top 6 are realistically out of contention for first place at this point, barring the miraculous (as we know, the miraculous can and does happen). And then there’s the FA cup, which Chelsea are also in the running for admittedly with more competition, the next being Manchester United next week Monday at Stamford Bridge. The last time Chelsea faced Manchester United at the bridge they recorded an outstanding 4-0 victory, but knockout football is always trickier, not to mention Manchester United’s current unbeaten streak. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been confirmed to miss out the encounter however after the FA found him guilty of violent conduct over the weekend, given that the big swede has been involved for almost half of Manchester United goals this season (48%), he will be a big miss for Mourinho’s team. And so Chelsea keep up momentum and are en route to a historic finish in May, with finger tips on the trophy and fingers crossed, keep the blue flag flying high!
KEEP THE BLUE FLAG FLYING HIGH #KTBFFH.