The wait for a convincing show from Chelsea continues. Her first win over another team from the upper half this season was due more to determination than inspiration, even though two late goals from Tammy Abraham gave the final score a misleading appearance, masking the fact that West Ham had required to play the game on their terms for long periods.
In the end, the stamina was enough to place Chelsea in fifth place, but not to eradicate doubts about their form, particularly in attack. With Thiago Silva imperious at the rear, Frank Lampard’s team faced some awkward moments. They fought for a clean sheet and produced quality when it mattered, leaving West Ham regretting some powder finishes and a slow start.
It was Silva who set the tone for Chelsea from the start, knocking on Sébastien Haller’s heels every time the ball hit the West Ham striker. Keen on the challenge, the central defender’s aggression summed up Chelsea’s positive mindset, allowing them to push high and squeeze the game.
Haller seemed a bit surprised to find a top-tier Premier League defender who didn’t give him time to settle. On the touchline, David Moyes yelled at the Frenchman, urging him to produce more. Central defender Angelo Ogbonna appeared to be guiding Haller through the game, telling him when to run and where to move. It didn’t feel like an ideal way to build and, with West Ham struggling to maintain possession, Chelsea’s increased intensity paid off as Silva broke the deadlock after 10 minutes, taking advantage of the poor mark to face Mason Mount’s corner. with a powerful header.
Silva celebrated with a throaty roar before being mugged by his teammates. Under pressure after insipid losses to Everton and Wolves, Chelsea welcomed the breakthrough with enthusiasm. For a time, the blue jerseys swarmed all over West Ham, attacking at high speed, their passes crisp and urgent. Christian Pulisic threatened lively dribbling and a second goal could have come as Mount pushed his way down the right, only for the midfielder’s low center to flash in the face of the goal.
“Come on, we need a little strength here,” yelled Declan Rice, no doubt enraged at having turned upside down against his first club. The West Ham midfielder, who remains a target for Chelsea, was not enjoying his evening.
Always vocal, Rice knew her teammates were off the beat. That hasn’t been the path for West Ham this season. Clumsy and physical, they had ways of hurting Chelsea. They even thought they had an early advantage when Rice scored from a tight angle after being released by a quick free throw. An offside flag shortened the celebrations.
West Ham was able to upset Chelsea. Eager to take a solid approach, Moyes had ditched the crafty but unreliable Saïd Benrahma and added steel when commissioning Mark Noble for the first time since September 12.
With numbers in midfield, West Ham began to threaten, driven by Rice. Jarrod Bowen ran to Emerson Palmieri, introduced on the left back after Ben Chilwell suffered an early ankle injury, and Aaron Cresswell fired wide. Kurt Zouma cleared an aerial kick from Haller.
However, Chelsea remained dangerous at halftime. After 43 minutes they fought back brilliantly, Pulisic a motion blur as he raced at West Ham behind four. But when Pulisic released Timo Werner, the German’s lack of confidence betrayed him. Without a goal since the beginning of November, Werner fired straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
Werner looked up at the sky, wondering when his luck would change. He’s missed a lot of opportunities recently and spent much of the first hour unable to match Abraham, Olivier Giroud recalled. A cross, cut atop Matthew Harding’s position in the race, summed it up.
Fortunately for Chelsea, the West Ham striker did not ooze threat either. Early in the second half, a Cresswell crossover begged to be taken home. Haller, rising high, looked wide.
However, West Ham kept pushing, becoming a nuisance, winning a series of corners. Tomas Soucek was gaining headers in midfield and Bowen was still looking for starts from the right. Forced back, with Jorginho unable to dictate the flow after starting in place of Kai Havertz in midfield, Chelsea needed to hold out and push the high balls away.
Half chances came and went. Cesar Azpilicueta blocked when Pablo Fornals looked sure to equalize. Introduced by Fornals, Benrahma found space in the box and saw a deflected shot wide.
However, without the injured Michail Antonio up front, West Ham lacked decisive quality. Finally, the abyss in class said it. Werner was rewarded for refusing to drop his head, which helped seal the points when his cross shot found Abraham, who slid the ball past Fabianski.
Moments later, Abraham shot again from close range, leading Chelsea to safety. Lampard, however, will not be fooled.
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