Chelsea have lost 2-1 to West Ham United as they resume their woes after a promising week at home and in Europe.
West Ham , in keeping with Slaven Bilic’s words prior to kick-off, started the game with belief and were not afraid to get forward early with Chelsea being forced, for the most part, to venture ahead on the counter attack.
Chelsea’s first sight came from the boot of Costa as his international teammate Fabregas chipped the ball through and the forward volleyed high and over. The home side’s early initiative was met attack for attack as Chelsea looked bright going forward but lacked the final pass or finish. Costa won a corner which he then failed to connect with properly and soon after the defending champions were paid to pay as West Ham took the lead.
A free-kick, given away by Fabregas, was tipped over the bar by Begovic. The resulting corner was not cleared and the ball fell to Zarate on the right side who was inexplicably allowed to shoot through the crowded area and in at Begovic’s near post.
Chelsea’s response was timid at first but as the first half continued were able to get forward- resuming their early incisiveness with the ball at feet. They were inches from equalising with ten minutes to go of the first half when a corner was headed by Zouma and almost turned over the line by West Ham forward Lanzini on the line. The same player almost, and should have doubled West Ham’s lead minutes later when put through on goal by Payet but put the ball over Begovic and bar; the Bosnia and Herzogovina international doing well to put off the forward enough to force the miss.
Chelsea’s half did not improve as it neared its end with two defining events. Chelsea were denied an equaliser, this time incorrectly, when Fabregas finished past the West Ham ‘keeper having received the ball from Willian with replays showing him to be level with the last defender. The next was rather less contentious but potentially a great more damaging when Matic pulled back Sakho on the right wing as the West Ham man turned past him and ran towards the area and was given a second yellow card- he was cautioned for something similar seconds after Lanzini cleared the ball off the line as the home side broke forward.
The second half began rather tentatively for the home side, as if having an advantage in men and score disconcerted them. As a result it was Chelsea that took the initiative and found the leveler they were denied in the first half. A corner was drifted in and West Ham’s defending proved to be as sloppy as Chelsea’s earlier on as Cahill was given leave to fire in the loose ball from close range.
The equaliser gave new life to both sides- West Ham’s Mark Noble had a half volley caught by Begovic, and Costa almost caught out West Ham’s defence when a back pass was short but Adrian was first to the ball. Being a player down curtailed Chelsea’s ability to counter attack although Ramires should have done better with a cut back from Hazard when Begovic cleared away.
Chelsea’s troubles seemed for a time in this past week to be at least almost behind them but they were more acute than ever before as West Ham retook the lead through a header from Andy Carroll. Azpilicueta was isolated and Begovic off his line as Chelsea fell behind again with 12 minutes left. The goal was coming after a period of pressure from the home side and proved once and for all Chelsea’s brittle defence.
The game drew to a close with few chances for Chelsea to regain parity. A stoppage time free-kick from Willian came to nothing and Chelsea once again look like the same empty shell that they have done for much of this season. It is another defeat and one where Chelsea could and should have got at least one point from. It is true to say the referee disallowed a legitimate goal in the first half, but the Premiership champions, now surely destined to relinquish their title in May, must fix the defensive and fitness problems that continue to pervade their football if they are to reach their minimal target of finishing in the Champions League places.
WEST HAM: Adrian, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Collins, Cresswell, Noble (c), Kouyate, Zarate, Payet, Lanzini, Sakho.
Subs: Randolph, Carroll, Valencia, Obiang, Ogbonna, Jelavic, Antonio.
Manager: Slaven Bilic
Scorers: Zarate (17) Carroll (78)
CHELSEA: Begovic; Zouma, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Ramires, Matic; Willian, Fabregas (Mikel 45), Hazard; Diego Costa.
Subs: Amelia, Baba Rahman, Mikel, Loftus-Cheek, Oscar, Traore, Falcao.
Manager: José Mourinho
Scorers: Cahill (55)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Venue: Upton Park, London, UK