Premier League
Chelsea 2 West Ham United 0

Monday, 8th April 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

On a warm spring evening, West Ham came away with nothing from Stamford Bridge as a tight match was won by a truly wonderful individual performance.

Whilst West Ham matched up reasonably well to Chelsea, they had no handle of Eden Hazard, who scored two goals to give the home side a 2-0 win.

West Ham made five changes, with Ryan Fredericks, Fabian Balbuena, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson and Javier Hernandez returning to the starting line up.

They went into the game playing 4-2-3-1 that turned into a five man midfield without the ball, playing deep for the most part but not scared to move forward in possession.

Chelsea controlled possession, but a cagey start saw neither side really threaten.

It was more notable for the patterns of play that emerged. Rice seemed a little out of sorts, Noble was always looking to spring a forward ball for a counter, Lanzini patrolled Jorginho's space so he couldn't control the game. The most threatening player was Kante, repeatedly finding space between the lines, although the figure of Eden Hazard always lurked, and the Belgian was working his way into the game.

Just after the drab opening 20 minutes finished, Chelsea offered the first flash of danger. Kante and Azpilicueta combined down the right and the full back surged into the box. Fortunately for the Hammers, he took a touch too many and Balbuena was able to make a crucial tackle.

As if that moment had sparked him into life, Eden Hazard decided to change the game.

Receiving the ball 40 yards from goal, with little threat, Hazard turned and drove at the West Ham defence. He skipped past Noble and Rice before they could even think to stop him and then slalomed between Balbuena and Ogbonna with ease. He darted into the area and placed a left-footed shot beyond Fabianski as Fredericks desperately lunged towards him.

It had taken him all of 10 seconds to prove the genius of his skill with the ball at his feet and remind everyone why Chelsea would be ordinary without him. It was 1-0 and West Ham hadn't really made a mistake, nor Chelsea really threatened to cause one.

It shook West Ham too, and it took them the rest of the half to recover.

They were fortunate that Chelsea didn't capitalise. Minutes after the goal, Hazard found a wonderful pass to Higuain from the left wing, floating it inch-perfect over Balbuena, but the shot from the angle found post rather than goal.

Hazard and Kante were finding space and little useful resistance. Hudson-Odoi had a chance saved by Fabianski, who then got a little lucky from the resulting corner as he flapped it down in front of himself.

Chelsea should have gone in 2-0 up, and would have if not for the toes of Ryan Fredericks. A Kante cross from the edge of the area was taken down on the chest by Higuain, then volleyed from 8 yards. It was going in, but the desperate dive of Fredericks was successful this time, poking it behind to keep West Ham only a goal behind at half time.

In the break, Snodgrass came on for Hernandez and Arnautovic went up front. It's hard to be too critical of Hernandez, who was offered nothing. Lanzini went right, Anderson left and Snodgrass alongside Noble, who were supported by Rice behind them and West Ham went into a 4-1-4-1.

It worked to balance West Ham's midfield and stop Kante and Hazard finding pockets of space at will. It also gave them more balance in attack, Snodgrass working hard to get up and support, whilst Arnautovic threatened in the channels more than Hernandez.

Ten minutes in, West Ham had their first chance of the match.

Snodgrass gathered in midfield and Anderson fed Arnautovic in behind. He cut it back, avoiding a shot from a bad angle, and Lanzini came onto it in the box. His placed shot was saved by Kepa.

It fell to Snodgrass, who dribbled into the box and clipped it to the back post to Arnautovic, whose volleyed cross was blocked for a corner. The referee ignored that Snodgrass was sliced down after his cross, a clear foul and a penalty. The argument against is that the ball is gone, and that's an argument only six sides ever win.

It was an indication that the game was opening up. And West Ham were growing in confidence. Cresswell had a lovely volley that beat Kepa but beat the far post too, and Chelsea were not adapting to the changes made. West Ham were the better side, but Eden Hazard was still the best player on the pitch.

He was the man keeping Chelsea going, and nearly created an opening to end the contest. Rolling two men in the middle, he fed Hudson-Odoi in the box, but his pass slid across goal and just too far for Barkley to poke into an empty net.

With time ticking away, West Ham came their closest. A quick freekick on the left was passed from Anderson to Snodgrass, who pushed forward and floated a delightful cross to the back post. Arnautovic climbed to head across goal, but it was deflected inches wide off the head of Emerson. Hitting the side netting, some in the ground thought it had nestled into the back of the net.

It was the last chance West Ham had, and they seemed to fade from here, as if they'd given it all and run out of ideas and energy.

Chelsea began to take hold of the game once more. Giroud came close to scoring one-on-one with Fabianski, but whilst the Pole came out on top this time, the game was settled in the 90th minute as Fabianski was finally beaten once more.
Beginning to camp around the West Ham goal, a well intercepted cross fell to Barkley, and he calmly waited for Hazard to move into space. The Belgian was found, and the man who was the difference between the two sides all night took a touch and fired beyond Fabianski.

In reality, a one goal deficit had probably been fair, but Hazard had earned whatever he wanted on the night.

West Ham had not played all that badly, creating chances in the second half and looking as capable as Chelsea of getting the second goal. But Eden Hazard had turned up to play, and Hazard is a world class talent. He was the difference, which he very well might not be next year.

It left West Ham in 11th, five points of 7th and four off 10th, making it more and more likely that a top half finish will slip from Pellegrini's fingers. One away point in 2019 could go a long way to explaining that.

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Player Ratings

Lucasz Fabianski
The most saves in the league, but it's not just quantity, it's the quality too. Another game he's kept us in with his fantastic ability.


Ryan Fredericks
Settled back into the side and his pace was very helpful to help with the breaks Chelsea made. His block on Higuain saved a certain goal, which turned an average performance into a good one.


Aaron Cresswell
Not his best game defensively, but he is so much better an attacking full back than the pair on the opposite flank. So nearly scored, and makes Anderson play better.


Fabian Balbuena
Returned from injury with little sign of rust. The best defender of the set, even if a little less sharp on the ball. Could be the man to steady the ship.


Angelo Ogbonna
A quieter game than he's had recently, possibly due to the speed and movement of Kante and Hudson-Odoi down that side.


Declan Rice
One of his poorer games. Loftus-Cheek, Hazard and Kante brushed past him on multiple occasions, and he didn't clear up as much because of it. Passed well in the second half, including a glorious volley across the pitch, but his performance nowhere near the high standards he has set.


Mark Noble
Passed forward when no one else seemed able to. The only one who ever seemed to tackle Kante too. One of many who had no chance stopping the wizardry Hazard produced.


Felipe Anderson
Flirted with being very effective, and at least looked closer to the sharpness that he's lacked for most of 2019.


Manuel Lanzini
Should have done better with his chance, but worked hard, linked well, got close to Arnautovic in the second half and did quieten down any Jorginho hold on the play.


Marko Arnautovic
His running in behind opened up the game for West Ham. Set up a glorious chance for Lanzini, nearly scored himself with a header, did his defensive work in the first half when on the wing.


Javier Hernandez
Did what he could do reasonably well, but nothing was created and little was even nearly created in the first half.



Substitutes

Robert Snodgrass
(Replaced Hernandez) Made a big difference to how we played, working hard from end to end. Glorious cross for Arnautovic, should have been given a penalty. His kind of game, where hard work is more important than guile.


Pedro Obiang
(Replaced Noble) Had 20 minutes to get in and make his presence felt. Not a lot he could do, really.


Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play.


Arthur Masuaku
Did not play.


Samir Nasri
Did not play.


Lucas Perez
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lucasz Fabianski, Ryan Fredericks, Aaron Cresswell, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez.

Goals: None.

Booked: Ryan Fredericks  Michail Antonio         .

Sent off: None.

Chelsea: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, David Luiz, Emerson; Kante, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 70), Hudson-Odoi (Pedro 85), Hazard, Higuain (Giroud 76).

Subs not used: Caballero, Kovacic, Willian, Christensen.

Goals: Hazard (24, 90).

Booked: Azpilicueta, Kepa.

Sent off: None.

Referee: Chris Kavanagh.

Attendance: 40,537.

Man of the Match: Robert Snodgrass.