Match Review: West Ham 1-2 Chelsea

Updated: March 7, 2017

On the face of it, the scoreline seems a little too close for comfort for Chelsea fans. But in reality, a lapse in concentration allowed West Ham to score a consolation at the death. The Blues kept the Hammers at arm’s-length for the majority of the game, striking on the counter as they’ve done so often this season.

First Half

A snooze-fest. That seems the adequate term for the first half of this match. Through 20 minutes it was an even battle, the home team attempting to control the tie in the middle of the park while the away team were happy to sit back.

On the counter, Chelsea’s attacks looked promising – while the ball was with Eden Hazard, Cesc Fàbregas or N’Golo Kanté, that is. When Pedro or Diego Costa received the ball it was almost immediately lost, through a bad pass or poor control. Costa, in particular, was terrible. His touches were heavy and he had little desire to retreat from any offside position he found himself in.

In the 25th minute, Chelsea scored a wonderful counter attacking goal. Kanté did what he does best – winning the ball in the Blues’ own half – and played the ball to Hazard to steam forward. Eden’s square ball was slightly behind Pedro, but the Spaniard adjusted his body tremendously well to hit a first-time through-ball to the onrushing Belgian. Hazard still had a lot to do, but kept his composure and used his first touch to nudge the ball past Darren Randolph before slotting the ball into the empty net.

The industrious Kanté displayed another moment of brilliance towards the latter stages of the half. On the left wing he looked to play in Hazard, who was in an offside position. The Frenchman noticed and steamed onto his own pass, keeping the ball in play, flicking it past a defender and passing the ball into the centre of the field.

Chelsea shut up shop for the rest of the half, comfortable enough to shepherd West Ham away from goal and into the midfield. Wing-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso had very good halves, offering an attacking outlet while preventing crossing – the latter aspect particularly important against a team with Andy Carroll in the box. Moses and César Azpilicueta were particularly impressive when it came to dealing with West Ham’s aerial threat. With four minutes remaining in the first half the away side should have doubled their lead. Costa completely missed a Hazard cross, Moses hit the rebound straight at Aaron Cresswell and Pedro saw his shot well saved by Randolph.

Second Half

The Blues started the second half well, and just five minutes in they had their reward. Another counter saw Hazard play one of the naughtiest passes of the season – a lay-off to Kanté off of his back. After winning a corner, Fàbregas whipped in the set-piece, which took a deflection off a defender and fell into the lap of Costa just a yard out.

After Alonso had shown some nifty footwork to fashion himself a shooting opportunity in the box (which went wide) Chelsea had some panic in their own area. The West Ham players seemed to find themselves with acres of space to put in one cross after another – what seemed like 50 crosses in the space of one minute. A goal-line block from Moses saved the Blues and they restored the calm amongst their defence.

Nemanja Matic, Willian and Kurt Zouma were all brought on to see the game out and add some solidity to the formation.

A lapse in concentration from the entire defence saw Thibaut Courtois furious in the 92nd minute. A poor pass was played to Fàbregas who couldn’t control. André Ayew stole the ball from the Spaniard and played in Manuel Lanzini, he wasn’t closed down quick enough and had time to pick out the corner of the Chelsea goal.

An unnecessarily frantic last minute was seen through by Chelsea, who’s raggedness towards the end will be sure to anger Antonio Conte.

10 points clear

Chelsea won; at this point in the season that’s all that matters. This was a classic ‘what champions are made of ‘ performance. While Kanté’s brilliance can never be understated, Costa’s form is beginning to worry. But whichever way you look at it, he’s still scoring and Chelsea are grinding out results – just be wary when the team’s remarkably clinical scoring starts to slow down.

Interesting stats via Whoscored:

Diego Costa – dispossessed five times, the most in the game.

Gary Cahill – 96% pass completion, off of 55 passes.

Andy Carroll – 8 aerial duels won, sounds about right.

Chelsea – 30 clearances, West Ham had seven. David Luiz single-handedly had 8.

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