Faltering Chelsea drop more points as West Ham hold strong
Antonio Conte and his Chelsea team lost more ground on the Champions League places after a disappointing draw against West Ham at Stamford Bridge. Javier Hernandez haunted the Blues yet again, scoring just three minutes after coming on as a substitute to cancel out Cesar Azpilicueta’s opening goal.
The afternoon began with many heartfelt, touching tributes for the late Ray Wilkins. Many former Chelsea players and staff appeared on the big screen talking about the great man and Blues legend and a commemorative banner was unveiled in the Shed End. The minute’s applause for ‘Butch’ was immaculately served on all four sides of the ground as flowers and his famous number 8 shirt were placed on his place on the Chelsea bench during his time as assistant manager.
On the pitch, Chelsea started the better with Eden Hazard going extremely close with a low shot that flashed just wide of the far post. The Hammers found themselves pinned back and were made to watch their hosts enjoy the majority of the possession. Marko Arnautovic, playing as the lone striker, found himself in a goal scoring opportunity after latching onto a long ball but the Chelsea defence were quick to smother the danger and Gary Cahill was able to block his shot. Alvaro Morata became more involved as the first half went on and had the ball in the net after linking up with Eden Hazard but the striker was denied by the offside flag.
Hazard and Morata combined once again minutes later but the Spaniard couldn’t guide his flick goal-wards and it rolled agonizingly wide of the far post. Chelsea’s little Belgian was creating chances at will for his teammates and Willian was the next person to waste one when Joe Hart came out to deny him in a one-on-one situation. However, from the resulting corner, Cesar Azpilicueta was first to react to Morata’s knockdown and his effort squirmed over the line. The Chelsea defender dedicated his second goal of the season to Ray Wilkins in yet another thoughtful tribute.
After the break, West Ham started to commit players forward in an attempt to get back into the game but that left them slightly more open at the back. The Blues had numerous chances to put the game to bed but squandered every single one of them. Willian saw his shot go past the far post before Morata headed over from a corner. Neither of them could get onto Marcos Alonso’s cross but when it finally fell to Victor Moses, his effort was blazed over the bar with no control. Chelsea’s record signing had the ball in the net from Willian’s cross but was again denied by the linesman’s flag.
With the Chelsea pressure building, Arthur Masuaku was dispossessed inside his own half but Victor Moses couldn’t capitalise after curled his left-footed shot just wide of Hart’s far post. With the game still within reach, David Moyes deployed Javier Hernandez, the Mexican has had an exceptional scoring record against Chelsea over the years so it seemed almost inevitable that he’d convert Arnautovic’s cutback just three minutes later. That makes it 6 goals in his last 7 visits to Stamford Bridge for the Little Pea as the familiar sight of him celebrating in front of the away end was seen once again.
Almost immediately after Hernandez’s equaliser, Alonso was superbly denied by Hart when the Spaniard rifled in a shot from the edge of the area. Pedro and Olivier Giroud were brought on by Antonio Conte and the latter allowed the hosts to hold up the ball with more success. The Frenchman had a chance late into the game but his downward header was somehow tipped onto the post by the diving Hart in what was an incredibly impressive display from the England keeper. Moments before that, N’Golo Kante had got a crucial tackle in on Arnautovic when it seemed the Austrian was destined to score.
The final whistle sparked a chorus of boos from the home crowd as Chelsea continued their dismal run of late; they’ve won just 2 of their last 8 league games and have lost points from losing positions in 3 of their last 4 Premier League games. Antonio Conte will be hoping an FA Cup triumph can save their season because it seems like Champions League football is too much to ask for.