Hazard and Costa on point as Conte's Chelsea beat West Ham 2-1
Chelsea go 10 games unbeaten, and extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points, after a comfortable east-meets-west London derby against West Ham in the London Stadium.
Goals in either half by Eden Hazard and Diego Costa was enough to avenge defeat to the hosts in the EFL Cup earlier in the season, but Lanzini’s injury-time goal denies Chelsea their clean sheet, meaning the visitors have only kept two clean sheets in their last nine league games, having recorded 10 shut-outs in the previous 12 top-flight matches.
Regardless of defensive frailties, the attacking prowess of Hazard and Costa was strong enough to give Chelsea all three points, and it could have been more convincing but for some good saves from Randolph.
West Ham have won their last two home games against Chelsea, both by a 2-1 scoreline, so it was no surprise to see Conte set his side up to score early. However, the Italian himself may have been as caught out as West Ham’s defence was, with Luiz’s long through-ball right from kick-off nearly finding Pedro to score a goal in still a single-digit number of seconds.
The early drama subsided with lengthy spells of possession, with neither keeper significantly tested, but the goal did come eventually, from a fast Chelsea counter-attack.
When West Ham’s attack broke down by none other than N’Golo Kante, Hazard and Pedro exchanged a series of one-twos as they raced half the length of the field. A final crisp assist by Pedro saw Hazard one-on-one, and after rounding Randolph, the Belgian tucked the ball into the back of the net.
The Blues have scored the opening goal of the game 21 times this season in the Premier League, four more times than any other side, but had to be wary of a West Ham recovery, with Noble and Lanzini occupying dangerous positions in Chelsea’s penalty area.
But Chelsea never looked like losing control.
Pin-ball in the West Ham box saw Hazard, Costa, Moses and Pedro all fire at Randolph but the Irish goalkeeper was standing firm and saved well before clearing the melee.
A similar stand-off ensued at the other end, with Feghouli’s shot eventually being blocked to safety by Victor Moses.
Andy Carroll was an important recall for Bilic after injury, but Chelsea never looked like losing that control in the second half.
Quite the contrary: they were to assert more dominance on the match through the simplest of second goals. A corner floated in evaded all players but not Costa’s thigh, as the Spaniard bundled the ball into the back of the net from three yards out.
In the run-up to the match, the 28-year-old had scored in 54% of his Premier League appearances, a higher proportion than any other player to feature in at least 20 matches. Costa also only needed two goals to reach the 50 Premier League goals mark, a club he is only one shy of now.
That feat was nearly realised moments later, when a smart swivel inside the penalty area brought about a dangerous chance, and whilst he got his shot away with his left foot, Randolph was equal to it and the wait for Costa would have to go on.
Alonso had an opportunity prior to that, but Conte had seen enough and was keen to preserve; Matic and Zouma soon came on for the final quarter of an hour.
That did not stop Lanzini striking firmly — and scoring — against Courtois in the dying minutes though, with Chelsea denied their first clean sheet in five league outings, but the Blues’ attentions now turn to the FA Cup, and Manchester United no less, after another solid Premier League outing.
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Man of the Match
EDEN HAZARD: We all know on his day this man is lethal, and tonight was one of those. Broke the deadlock with an excellent goal with Pedro, but his constant running, drifting in, weaving out, confused the West Ham defence as they struggled to main the Belgian in real form. The man shows great composure and it is surely this, along with his quality, that will help Chelsea to the Premier League title. 8/10
Conte was pleased with the manner of the win: “I think we played a good game. We controlled the game. It is a pity for the goal we conceded at the end. To give away a clean sheet at the end is not good. We must improve in this situation. But I’m pleased. We showed great concentration and commitment and will to win.”
Bilic was resigned: “They deserved to beat us. It is very simple. If you want to beat Chelsea then you have to hope for their mistakes and use them. They look serious, for me they are not going to lose [the title]. I can’t see them being casual.”