Chelsea bow out of the EFL Cup in limp fashion with a 2-1 away defeat to West Ham, in a match overshadowed by yet more crowd disturbances.
The Blues, who had 53% and 16 shots to West Ham’s 13, were undone by two early goals at the start of both halves, with Kouyaté edging the Hammers ahead before Fernandes doubled, leaving Cahill’s injury-time goal a mere consolation.
It means the Blues’ run in the League Cup ends in this last-16 stage as Conte’s men re-group to focus on the Premier League, having made seven changes for tonight’s cup game.
Chelsea lost on their last visit to face West Ham, and despite the new venue, West Ham were in good control for the 90 minutes, going a goal ahead within the first 11.
Kouyate’s header started proceedings for the hosts in front of a rapturous but troublesome home crowd as Conte’s game-plan was torn to shreds.
That game-plan focused on rotating his side, with the break in Premier League action affording starts for Chalobah, Aina and the returning trio of Terry, Willian and Oscar, but the 5-2-3 system stuck.
Terry had an opportunity from a set-piece whilst N’Golo Kante was keen to press on from his superb goal at the weekend against Manchester United, going forward and stinging the hands of Randolph.
West Ham continued pressing and one nearly became two twice from either Antonio or Payet, but the third chance was the best when Antonio squared a ball to Lanzini who fluffed his lines with half an hour played.
The pressure was not alleviating but Kante had a presentable opportunity but instead he decided to pass than shoot. Batshuayi, leading the line with Costa rested, was resorted to long-range efforts.
West Ham’s first-half superiority only brought about one goal but two minutes into the second half they had their just rewards. Payet raced forward and his shot was expertly saved by Begovic, but West Ham regrouped where Chelsea did not and the ball fell kindly to Fernandes who cut inside past Aina to strike home.
Conte was not departing the competition without a fight and so on came Costa, Hazard and Pedro. Oscar had a penalty claim waved away, whilst Willian wasted a good chance to claw Chelsea back into it with a quarter of an hour left to play.
Chelsea grew and grew but time was against them, with Terry heading wide and Costa slipping when one-on-one, and the pain of these missed chances were ever more felt when Chelsea did get a goal back through Cahill’s prod home from a corner.
Had Chelsea buried one of their other chances late in the game it might have turned to extra-time but instead Chelsea turn back to SW6 knowing their name will not be in the quarter-final hat this season, a feat they have reached in four of the last five seasons.
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Man of the Match
ASMIR BEGOVIC: Despite conceding two goals, given the relative mish-mash of the defensive in-front of him, which included Aina, Chalobah, a returning Terry and even Oscar becoming defensive midfielder later on in the game, Begovic did make some good saves to stop the score-line becoming worse, notably saves from Noble and Obiang. The relative shame is the Bosnian still cannot provide sufficient enough competition for the complacent Courtois. 6/10
Conte still saw some positives: “The performance was good because we knew they would play a strong game, but I think we played with a good intensity and created many chances to score a goal,’ said Conte. ‘I saw a good spirit in my players because until the end they tried to change the result. Tonight we were a bit unlucky.”
Bilic knew where the game was won: “We were really good in keeping the ball and stretching them and playing wide. In the first half it was great and I think we deserved to be more than one up.”