Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Deceptively comfortable win, as Chelsea dismiss West Ham enroute to the Premier league title

West Ham 1-2 Chelsea

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was probably being over generous when he suggested if West Ham had scored their consolation goal in the 85th rather than the 92nd minute his side could have been in trouble.

Always the perfectionist, Conte was disappointed that his side had lost the clean sheet at the death, to Manuel Lanzini’s late goal. However, this should not take away from the dominance that Chelsea displayed for the whole of this match at the London stadium.

The game started off evenly with the two sides largely cancelling each other out in the middle of the pitch.

This all changed though in the 24th minute, with West Ham losing the ball to N’Gola Kante just outside their penalty area. The speed of counter attack of the visitors was breath taking, with Kante feeding Eden Hazard whose one-two with Pedro saw him set free to round keeper Darren Randolph and score.

West Ham almost hit back in the 40th minute when Robert Snodgrass put Lanzini through but he shot over.

Chelsea could have doubled their lead just before half time but for a double block from first Winston Reid and then Randolph.

The momentum though remained with the visitors after the break,  Diego Costa stealing in unchallenged to knock home Cesc Fabregas’s corner.

West Ham were then unlucky to see Sofiane Feghouli’s drive saved by Thibaut Courtois and a possible hand ball against Marcos Alonso denied.  

The clear difference between the sides was the speed and direction of counter attack from Chelsea. West Ham tended to be predictable passing the ball across the field, always looking to get Snodgrass or Sofiane Feghouli down the flanks to cross for Carroll in the centre.

Notably, the Chelsea centre backs were able to deal with Carroll, which severely reduced the West Ham threat.

West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was pleased that his team were getting in the crosses. “We wanted more players in the box though, not just Andy,” said Bilic, who believes that Chelsea will win the Premier league. “They will finish on top. If you compare them with other title contenders, Chelsea are more solid than Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool.”

Conte believes that his team will retain their 10 point lead at the top of the table until the end of the season. “This league will be tough to the end, it won’t be easy. I trust my players to show commitment and work hard,” said Conte.

*published Morning Star - 8/3/2017 West Ham leave it too late to mount comeback

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