Premier League
West Ham United 0 Chelsea 1

Saturday, 24th April 2021
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham couldn't be the latest team to take points from the traitorous Super League cartel as a first half Timo Werner goal was enough to secure his side a 1-0 victory at the London Stadium.

In a very balanced game, West Ham will be happy with how they played toe-to-toe with Chelsea. Dare say it, but it looked like the tactical battle of two big teams. But chances were in short supply for the Hammers, whilst Chelsea took one great one and missed another simple chance.


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And in the end, we were all reminded of why competition in this league is always so tiresome. Because in the end, there?EUR(TM)s a group of six clubs who will always get their way. Today it was so once more, with Fabian Balbuena given a red card that may be even more ridiculous than the one given to Tomas Soucek earlier in the season.

Moyes?EUR(TM)s men can?EUR(TM)t argue it cost them the game - it was late and they hadn?EUR(TM)t made the chances they needed to. But they will be frustrated to have the opportunity to pile the pressure on their opponents the time ticked away.

And you begin to ask yourself: what?EUR(TM)s the point? As the most notable journalists in this country plea for leniency to the group of teams that threatened football in this country, the tedium of normality returned as Chelsea benefited from a quite insane red card decision.

The game itself was slow and tactical, the match decided on whose players were best equipped to take advantages of the few openings there were. It was Chelsea this time, Werner scoring one of two good chances. The German has been mocked this season, but it was his performance that arguably carried Chelsea to a victory they achieved with little fluency.

West Ham grew into the game, a timid start eventually brushed off as they got into the game and saw they were able to hang with their glamorous, money-grabbing opponents.

That being said, they rarely truly threatened. Whilst this West Ham side has improved breaking down stubborn opponents, Chelsea are a tougher proposition and marshalled their defence well. Credit to goes to the manager Tuchel, who openly admitted to bringing in an extra centre back with height to deal with the threat Moyes?EUR(TM)s side carries in the air.

Unfortunately for the Hammers?EUR(TM) fans, his decision was never really tested as the quality of delivery from corners and freekicks was lacking throughout. In truth, each set piece was a microcosm of their game. The territory was good, the intent was there, but the final ball never really carried much threat.

There were moments in the first half where passes were delayed or sloppy at moments where the right ball would have presented a chance.

Chelsea on the other hand were sharp around the box, Mount firing off shots all game and Werner turning the defence with his electric pace. The German may have missed one sitter, but his all-round game and movement made space all game for his side.

In response, West Ham were organised, drawing glowing comparison to Atletico Madrid in Tuchel?EUR(TM)s post-match comments. Soucek and Noble were particularly busy in the opening exchanges, both defending well in and around the box, making interceptions and putting a halt to dangerous Chelsea moves.


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At the other end, Jarrod Bowen harassed Rudiger every time the German centre back got the ball, and forced errors across a backline that did not seem prepared for the determination and drive offered by the makeshift striker. Fornals was lively and showed his intelligence throughout his display, with linking passes and clever movement giving him the opportunity to knit moves together.

In a moment that won?EUR(TM)t be mentioned on Match of the Day, Christensen avoided an early booking for a cynical and clear foul in the West Ham half. As the half wore on, he was able to commit a deliberate and cynical foul to stop a West Ham counter. He received his booking, but a refereeing performance of any quality would have either seen him in a position to avoid that challenge or be punished with a second yellow.

And it was only moments later that Chelsea scored the goal that won them the game.

Again, this was sparked by Werner. Receiving the ball inside the West Ham half, he dealt with muscular pressure from Ogbonna, rolled his man and moved the ball wide. It was given to Chilwell, who was in space to pass a ball through the heart of the West Ham box. Desperate legs couldn?EUR(TM)t poke it clear before it rolled to Werner in the middle of goal, the striker passing it beyond Fabianski with ease. It came after a sustained spell of West Ham pressure and possession, as well as minutes before the half time break.

West Ham could look to a Soucek shot blocked by Azpilicueta, with hints of an arm, but it was dismissed by the officials and was as close as West Ham came to bothering goalkeeper Mendy in the first half.

In the second half, the Hammers took control once more. But it really did become clear that the injuries this squad is dealing with have taken their toll at the worst time. Bowen hustled and hassled, but doesn?EUR(TM)t dominate a centre back (or two) like Michail Antonio. Fredericks got up field with pace in his unfamiliar left wing-back role, but had neither the skill of Masuaku, the delivery of Cresswell or the left foot of either.

Credit should be given to the manager, Moyes showing the bravery to often leave his three centre backs with three Chelsea forwards as Coufal and Fredericks bombed forward.

Mount soon came into the game more. He?EUR(TM)ll feel somewhat aggrieved not to have scored after forcing two good saves from Fabianski. The first was parried out to Werner a few yards from an open goal. How he passed it wide was quite confusing.

The closest the Hammers came was a quite delicious Lingard half-volley. A blocked shot allowed a dropping ball to bounce, the England international taking his time before unleashing a shot with the outside of his boot. It drifted just wide.


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As time went on, Moyes turned to his bench. Lanzini and Benrahma were thrown into the fray to replace Noble and Fornals. Soon the manager would be turning to his bench in dismay and disbelief.

Who knows what the referee and VAR think a player can do with their foot after kicking a ball. Because that is Balbuena?EUR(TM)s offence. After clearing the ball, his kicking foot carries on forward. As, you know, a foot must when kicking a ball hard. After kicking the ball ?EUR" and I need to repeat that simple premise for it is all he did ?EUR" the defender?EUR(TM)s swinging foot landed on the Chelsea player?EUR(TM)s leg as it looked to find the floor.

Balbuena could not physically have done it on purpose (I see no evidence of such dexterity) and no player in world football ?EUR" from Sunday League to Super League ?EUR" can understand any justification for a red card. Where else must a foot go after kicking a ball hard?

The innocuous challenge was missed by many, but the referee was forced over to VAR. As fourth official Mike Dean watched on from the sidelines, the greasy attention-seeker must have been thrilled as referee Chris Kavanagh concluded that kicking the ball and not immediately disappearing into the ether meant Balbuena needed to be dismissed. That Soucek one won?EUR(TM)t seem so foolish now. It is worth remembering that both decisions were made by referees with a replay to watch; VAR isn?EUR(TM)t the only villain here.

There were 10 minutes left, but now West Ham?EUR(TM)s building momentum had gone. It was all the more ridiculous moments later when Coufal cleared a ball and his foot then hit the Chelsea player, only for the referee not to give a foul, yellow or what he had earlier deemed an appropriate red card.

And so the traitors get their favours, one way or another.

For West Ham, the injustice stings but the team never really did enough to win. With Rice, Antonio, Masuaku, Cresswell and Dawson missing, it?EUR(TM)s little wonder that that extra percentage you need in big games was missing. They can take pride in controlling the tempo of much of the game against Tuchel?EUR(TM)s Champions League semi-finalists.

But it was a toothless display, and a big moment as the miracle really did start to seem just a little out of reach. It leaves the Hammers in fifth, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea and with a chasing pack who will all feel they can leapfrog Moyes?EUR(TM) side.

And for some of us, in this week of footballing news we have had, it is that crushing feeling. Why bother? In the end, money wins, and there?EUR(TM)s a cartel that has it and will make sure no one else does by whatever means necessary.

As the likes of Winter decry punishing the fans by punishing these clubs, you wonder what sport he has been watching. The rest of us, the detritus these businesses would have happily seen die as their ship sailed away, are punished by their greed over and over again.


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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
Two very good saves from Mount. Assured, nothing you could really expect him to do on the goal.


Vladimir Coufal
One of the Czech gladiator?EUR(TM)s more ineffective games. He didn?EUR(TM)t really dominate his flank defensively, and often found his crossing opportunities curtailed by the presence of any player in the opposition box. With Rice playing, Soucek would have been there.


Ryan Fredericks
If anything, Fredericks?EUR(TM)s only problem more frustrating than a lack of a left foot was his lack of confidence. Azpilicueta hated dealing with his pace, but Fredericks doesn?EUR(TM)t use it nearly as much as he could. Did well, especially in a new role, but often found his progress was halted by the fact he was down the left.


Fabian Balbuena
After his premeditated assault on a Big Six player, we can only assume sanctions will be in place to protect the best players from such animals. He was relatively fine, a bit calmer on the ball than usual. He and Diop both looked uncomfortable with Chelsea forcing them wide, but they were rarely exposed. Needs to work on his footwork, apparently.


Angelo Ogbonna
Whilst he had a good control of the defence for the majority of the game, the goal exposed him. First Werner was able to handle the physical pressure, and then the German lost Ogbonna to get into the box and score. He may well think being one of a back five may allow him a bit of cover, but they were weak once their leader was beaten.


Issa Diop
Did fine defensively, a little loose on the ball with his passing although it was good to see him confident enough to dribble around people when under pressure. Couldn?EUR(TM)t add to the attack like Cresswell does in that role, but neither did Ogbonna so it?EUR(TM)s harsh to really criticise him for that.


Mark Noble
In the first half, when Chelsea started faster than West Ham, Noble made crucial tackles and interceptions that halted potentially dangerous moves. As ever, always an option and he kept the ball moving well in the Chelsea half. He can?EUR(TM)t be criticised for not being Declan Rice, but there is a drop between the two and these games with fine margins expose that.


Tomas Soucek
Were it not for some impressive and important defensive work, it would have been a day to completely forget for the midfielder. Set pieces were poor, and they were his only real chance to get in the box. It may be more effective to play an extra midfielder instead of an extra defender if it allows Soucek to make late runs into the box again. His one moment in the box nearly won a penalty after a dangerous shot. Losing Rice is becoming more catastrophic because we are losing the player Soucek gets to be alongside him.


Pablo Fornals
One of the better performers for West Ham, and he still had an average game. Today?EUR(TM)s problem very much that no one shone, and often tight games this season have been won by one or two taking control. He was neat, intelligent and links with quick passes very well when building attacks. For all the brilliance he has shown from the left this year, he looks a natural in the middle, central to attacks.


Jesse Lingard
One good shot aside, it didn?EUR(TM)t come off for Lingard. He has the credit in the bank to try the sly freekick shot to catch Mendy out, but not another time with how important set pieces are. Showed in flashes that he was good enough to run through Chelsea players, but much more on the periphery than usual. May feel a better player than Bowen could have set him up for two big chances.


Jarrod Bowen
His work rate and defending from the front is impeccable. But he either lacks belief in himself when in dangerous positions or just lacks the composure to make it tell when it counts. Could have made big chances for others on a couple occasions at least, but chose poor options.



Substitutes

Said Benrahma



Manuel Lanzini
(Replaced Noble, 69) Underrated as a central midfielder, considered an attacking player when he is good playing in his own half, receives the ball well and is tenacious. Hard game to get into, more so once curtailed by the referee being thick.


Ben Johnson
(Replaced Fredericks, 83) Not much time to get on the ball and the game had been killed because Balbuena kicked the ball.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Nathan Trott
Did not play.


Frederik Alves
Did not play.


Conor Coventry
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Ryan Fredericks, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Issa Diop, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen.

Goals: None.

Booked: None.

Sent Off: Fabian Balbuena 81    .

Chelsea: Mendy, Rudiger, Silva, Christensen, Azpilicueta (James 86), Kante, Jorginho, Chilwell, Mount, Pulisic (Ziyech 74), Werner (Abraham 87).

Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Zouma, Gilmour, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz.

Goals: Werner (43).

Booked: Werner (35), Christensen (41), Mendy (90+3), Kante (90+4).

Sent off: None.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Lukasz Fabianski.