West Ham United 3 Chelsea 2
Saturday, 4th December 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
You could call it another famous win, or maybe we could just get used to success, but either way West Ham beat league leaders Chelsea this Saturday lunchtime, twice coming from behind to eventually win 3-2 at the London Stadium.In a back-and-forth humdinger of a match, it was the Hammers who came on top, even as injuries looked to hold them back. Both Johnson and Zouma were forced off, but the manager came to the fore, tweaking multiple things throughout the game and having arguably his best performance from the sidelines in-play.
There were season-best performances from many on the pitch too, with Bowen, Lanzini and Coufal shining, as well as a return to form for Issa Diop.
West Ham started with a back five, Diop brought in to play on the left side of the centre backs and Johnson to left wingback, Cresswell still injured and left out of the squad entirely. It matched Chelsea's system, but led to pre-game concerns about being too defensive and forced back even further by the team leading the league after our poor performance against Brighton.
The side looked less passive, happy to defend deep and allow their opponents the ball in safe positions, but more prepared to pounce on mistakes and even showing the eagerness to press on their short goal kicks and change how Tuchel's side were forced to play from the back.
It was disciplined, the byword of recent showings, a plan to keep the opposition at bay and maintain the shape. It worked too: throughout the 90 minutes Chelsea struggled to create openings when the team was settled into position.
There were moments, of course, a Havertz free header from one area where the system failed in every step. The cross was good, but thankfully the header was poor. It was, however, a warning shot, and a prelude of the threat in the air Chelsea do carry.
Just before the half hour mark, Thiago Silva was left with an unchallenged header in the middle of the penalty area from an out-swinging corner. Antonio was with him, either to mark or to block the run, but the ball sailed over his head at a height he could have intercepted. Instead, the striker did nothing, not marking the man, not blocking his movement and not challenging for the header. It allowed the Brazilian headed it down, the bounce flying off the surface and to the left of Fabianski. The goalkeeper got fingers to it, but could only deflect it against his own post, ricocheting back into his goal and giving Chelsea the lead.
Dunk had had at least two good chances from corners in midweek, leaving questions about how well West Ham are defending corners at the moment.
It could have all been erased so quickly had Silva not proven himself the king of his own penalty area too. A cross from the West Ham left was headed out to Coufal, the full back chesting it down inside the area then driving a low volley at goal. It beat Mendy, but the experienced centre back went from scoring at one end to saving a goal at the other, covering round and clearing an effort that was otherwise about to rifle into the back of the net.
Still West Ham pushed on, not deterred by conceding and comfortable in their plan. Their bravery pressing high on goal kicks had been noted, and the confidence to press high up the pitch was rewarded when Antonio forced Jorginho into a poor pass back to Mendy.
Before the goalkeeper could even get onto the balll, Bowen was nipping at his ankles and harassing him. The Frenchman controlled under pressure but allowed Bowen the opportunity to nick in front and take the ball. From there, it was no surprise to see a panicked goalkeeper make a poor decision, sliding down with his feet in desperation to recover the ball, only succeeding in taking out the tenacious winger and giving West Ham a penalty.
It was an opening back into the match, and one they took. Lanzini stepped up and coolly fired in, curling it into the inside of the sidenetting and levelling the scores, celebrating in the face of Reece James after the defender had tried to put him off pre-penalty. Feisty scenes in a London derby? You love to see it.
It got the crowd up and the players react. The energy for the five minutes remaining in the half was brilliant from both sides. Chelsea will feel they could have immediately restored their lead, but a poor Ziyech touch after a ball cut back to him in the area found him in space was enough to give Dawson time to stop the danger.
West Ham launched more attacks and had a spell of dominating the ball. In this moment, the settled defensive shape went out the window as players moved forward. Neat play gave them an overload down the left, but Johnson cut inside and played back to the middle. The ball remained with West Ham, but suddenly it was three defenders versus three Chelsea forwards.
The usually trustworthy Rice tried a clever ball around the press to Dawson, but the centre back was no longer there. Possession lost, Chelsea turned on the burners and countered quickly. In one moment it was down the left with Ziyech, the next his perfect (and, to the neutral eye, quite exquisite) pass lofted diagonally found Mount in the area.
On the right corner of the box, he wasted no time in connecting with the inside of his right boot, volleying low to Fabianski's near-side post. There will be those who cry in outrage as the goalkeeper was beaten, but the Pole had adjusted to what he would have expected to be either a pass from Mount or a shot across goal. Instead it was placed perfectly into the corner, but had Fabianski not bounced on his toes before the shot, he may have been prepared to save. It is a bad habit he has gotten into at times, one that occured for the first goal too - and most notably Alexander-Arnold's freekick goal last month - and just stopped him being able to shift his balance.
To rub salt into wounds, Johnson pulled up chasing back, the full back replaced due to injury just before half-time. There was still enough time for Zouma to make a great challenge on Havertz in the area just before the whistle went.
West Ham came out unchanged, Masuaku having entered play before the break, but Chelsea did not. On came Romelu Lukaku, the striker well known in these parts for scoring for fun against The Hammers.
The personnel may have stayed the same, but the manager did use his time with the team to tweak formation. Lanzini sat deeper now in a system more akin to a 5-3-2, but the wingbacks also stepped up the pitch a little to engage and were more proactive going forward. It was one of many little changes Moyes made in the game, systems getting as little as 10 minutes before he reacted to something Chelsea did differently or threats they were posing.
Bowen was definitely closer to Antonio, and the two should have done better with possession just inside the Chelsea half to create a chance. Antonio had the ball with only a defender and Bowen ahead of him, but Bowen never shaped his run to maintain his onside position nor stretch the defender, leaving Antonio to make the key decision of exactly when to pass. As he did, the defender moved slightly to the ball and Bowen moved forward to pounce, leaving him offside.
It was frustrating, but a little precursor to what could happen if they clicked. It certainly highlighted a growing influence in the game being had by Antonio. The striker spent around 40 minutes trying to bully Christensen, but realised his mistake and seemed to have more energy having seen his pressure on Jorginho cause such problems for the first goal.
Whatever inspired it, the Antonio West Ham fans know and love was suddenly back.
It was really with him that the equaliser came. He stretched Chelsea's backline with a bullying run from left to centre, leaving the ball for Soucek and then darting between defenders to run into the box. The Czech midfielder sent a floated ball over the top, and although Antonio didn't win it, the defender was forced to head away rather than head with accuracy to stop the forward. It fell to Coufal, who had followed forward in a way that really only he does of this side's full backs. He nudged it on to Bowen just on the edge of the box.
The magic was here. Coming in off the right, where he looks most dangerous, Bowen hit it first time, using the defender as a decoy to bend it through the legs of, and the shot was low and hard, rifling into the corner and beyond Mendy to level the scores.
Bowen was causing all sorts of problems for Chelsea and playing to a high level. His runs were confident, he dribbled with an authority and dominance that only comes with a burst in form, and he knit together the attack and defence whilst still being disciplined in doing his work when needed.
The two goals marked the first time the visitors had conceded more than one in a game since the last game of last season against Aston Villa. They had only conceded six in the league before today, and had won six of their seven away ties, the other a draw at Anfield with ten men. That was the size of the challenge for West Ham at the London Stadium today.
Tails were up, and whilst Chelsea still carried threat, the momentum was with West Ham enough to feel like the home side could well be the one to take all three points today. The bubble seem to have been burst with just under 20 minutes to play, with an injury to Kurt Zouma forcing the defender off. Fornals came on, Moyes bravely changing his system completely, anonther switch as the Spaniard went into midfield on the left to cover Masuaku the left back, a defence of four with a 4-3-3 now in play.
They nearly scored soon after, Fornals feeding Antonio down the right of the area and the striker smashing it across the face of goal. Bowen slid, Bowen stretched, but Bowen could not score, getting to the ball but only able to poke an effort wide. Antonio was alive again, and it is well worth noting he is the striker to have created the most chances across all the big five European leagues. Fornals's entry was impressive, the midfielder immediately up with the pace of the game and showing a confidence in his forward passing that others lacked a little. It was more ambitious, probably with a little less of a safety-first approach and it forced Chelsea back, rather than allowing them to take advantage of West Ham's injury misfortune.
Moyes reacted once more with his bench as the game entered the final five minutes, Benrahma coming on down the left, Rice moving to the right side of three central defenders and a 5-4-1 coming into play for the final stages, noticing how Hudson-Odoi had been brought on by Chelsea and was helping them threaten down our right side. Not only did Rice bring control to the defence, but the bold move also showed a trust in how Benrahma presses well from the left hand side and left a midfield two of Soucek and Fornals in to work hard, Lanzini replaced by the Algerian.
How it paid off was not quite to be expected. Antonio won a throw-in down the left side and screamed for the ball to be returned quickly to get the ball in play. Masuaku took it, giving it to the striker, who laid off the for the wingback and then made a few different runs. They seemed aimless, but they allowed space to open up for Masuaku to cross. He did do that, even he admits it, but his connection was anything but right. Instead of curling into the box and towards Soucek, it arrowed in a straight, if wobbly, line to goal. Mendy had moved to predict the cross, and having stepped forward, he could not adjust to the ball flying into his top corner.
The stadium erupted, the team celebrated, and not a soul cared just how it had gone in, it mattered that it had.
There was even still time for a Bowen chance, one he skied high and wide horribly, but it didn't matter. Chelsea were beat, the final whistle going with no further incident, and West Ham corrected the ship. The run of form beforehand, just one point in the three games since Liverpool, seemed to matter so much less now. It was 3-2 against Liverpool, it was 3-2 again here, and West Ham gave themselves a four-point cushion from Arsenal in fifth to get back on course.
December is a horrible month for football if you're out of form, so little time to rest and so many big games. Even more so if you have European football and a League Cup quarter final to play, but momentum came back in their favour after another huge win for David Moyes and his West Ham side.
The negatives seem easier to deal with too, although the need for reinforcements at the back only becomes starker with Zouma and Johnson injured.
The manager did not complain, rightly pointing to Brighton's misfortune in our last game and only asking the FA if maybe the schedule is unfair on the players in this league. But it cannot be stopped, and what they could do to feel better is exactly what they did, coming from behind twice to beat Chelsea, a result which combined with others has sent the Blues from first to third in one day. Oh well.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
He could have done better on both goals. A little bit poorly set for the first which meant he couldn?EUR(TM)t dive fully or get full strength to the hand. The Mount goal is lazily looked at as near post, where it?EUR(TM)s illegal nowadays for goalkeepers to concede, but Fabianski also has to be ready for the more likely option, which was the ball going across goal by either pass or shot.
Going to have this spot back now. He?EUR(TM)s been excellent since coming back in, his running up the flank offers so much for the team and livens up Bowen. Defended well too.
Defended reasonably well, but it?EUR(TM)s limiting for him on the ball. Injured just before half-time and probably be lucky to start a game now for some time with Coufal proving how important he is.
Defended well, especially so when Lukaku came on. Having to shift to a back four didn?EUR(TM)t change how he played. Just contained Lukaku with ease.
Gets injured making a great defensive tackle. Made eight clearances, just showing he was perfectly placed in that central role of the three centre backs.
Could be questions over whether he was too central when Mount drifted wider for the second goal. But he was good on the ball and that should be noted because the left side has suffered without Ogbonna. No silly errors, a tough game with lots of movement to deal with, and then a 94% pass success - comfortably the best.
First clear mistake of the season for a goal, a sloppy pass that Chelsea countered on for the second goal. But was otherwise fantastic, and worth noting his late cameo in the back five also saw him covering a lot of runs and keeping the defence under control and calm.
Defensive wall, but got into the box too when Lanzini balanced the midfield. Good pass over the top for Antonio on the eventual Bowen goal.
If you could give man of the match for attitude, fronting up Reece James after curling in the penalty would take it. Calm on the ball when dropping deep, linked things well outside their box in the first half when more advanced. Deserved to start and repaid the faith.
Arguably his best West Ham performance. An absolute pest, but with menace too. Antonio was a nuisance, Bowen was a class act. He awoke the real Antonio, defended fiercely down the right too, won a penalty and scored an excellent goal. His finishing is much better from inside on the right, he?EUR(TM)s more Arjen Robben than he is a striker.
The return of Michail Antonio. The first half was more of the same story from recent weeks, but the second half was all change. Bowen went up there closer to him and it just brought Antonio back. He concentrated more on playing with Bowen, rather than against Christensen, and he then remembered his own game. Sets up Masuaku, starts the move for the second goal with some great running first with the ball then off it to create space. But he allowed Silva the header for the first when he should have done so much more.
(Replaced Johnson, 45) His best defensive performance for a long time and then he gets that fluke goal. Another who adds a dimension to our play by being comfortable in difficult situations and confident to move with it down the left.
(Replaced Zouma, 71) Not a lot of time to impress but added energy and ambition. Good forward passing, then drops into the middle of the park to a traditional central midfield role and played with discipline and structure.
(Replaced Lanzini, 85) Cameo but had energy and running needed for it.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Ben Johnson, Craig Dawson, Kurt Zouma, Issa Diop, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Manuel Lanzini, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Manuel Lanzini 40 Jarrod Bowen 56 Arthur Masuaku 87 .
Sent off: None.
Chelsea: Mendy, Christensen, Thiago Silva, Rüdiger, James, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Alonso (Pulisic 73), Ziyech (Hudson-Odoi 64), Mount, Havertz (Lukaku 46).
Subs not used: Kepa, Azpilicueta, Sarr, Barkley, Saul, Werner.
Goals: Thiago Silva (29), Mount (44).
Booked: Jorginho (23), Christensen (90+4).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Andre Marriner.
Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.