Chelsea 2 West Ham United 1
Saturday, 3rd September 2022
by Chris Wilkerson
In a game that only burst into life with 25 minutes left, Chelsea were handed three points by a VAR and refereeing decision described as scandalous and rotten by West Ham manager David Moyes, and was even criticised by Peter Walton.West Ham took the lead through Michail Antonio, but were pegged back twice, with Havertz following Ben Chilwell's equaliser with a decisive winner, with only two minutes remaining on the clock.
But then, in stoppage time, Reece James - who should not have been on the pitch after petulantly kicking Antonio off the ball - headed into his own box, and when Mendy dived at Bowen's feet to clear, the winger was adjudged to have fouled the goalkeeper as he attempted to hurdle the man that had dived at him. Mendy stayed down, Cornet gathered and scored, but the referee Andrew Madley was inexplicably sent to view the incident again.
It should be no surprise that this meant the decision would be overturned, there has been little evidence of backbone for any on-field referees in such instances, but with so little contact, and initiated by the goalkeeper, hope remained that someone understood the game and the rules of football. Yet, having seen Nottingham Forest barely punished for an intentional handball on the line, when you remember Tomas Soucek's red card for lifting his arm up, it really is no longer a surprise.
The attention will remain on the disallowed goal, even with three others to discuss. That is because not only was it a rather disciplined and tight game, with very little in the way of chances, but it was also that bad a decision.
West Ham should come out of it knowing they were the better team, and having been the better side midweek against Tottenham, the four points from the last three games will rightly leave many feeling short-changed. The positive to take is the performances, as this West Ham side begins to settle in its new systems and signings.
With Cresswell injured, in came Emerson as he started back at his old club. There was a full debut for Paqueta, too, taking Benrahma's place from Wednesday night. Scamacca was still absent, and West Ham came to Stamford Bridge short one member of their bench, suggesting the decision was left to the last moments.
Moyes set his side out to frustrate, suffocating any space in their own half and keeping numbers in the box. There was often 11 men behind the ball, but ceding possession to Chelsea did not lead to chances for Tuchel's side.
The Blues had 70% of the first half possession, but never threatened. The best of any slim moments of threat came from West Ham, and those were a long way from dangerous. A Fornals volley that sailed harmlessly wide was as close as either side came.
The slim openings Chelsea did have were wasted, the most notable a Pulisic snap-chance that was quickly deflected wide, and not hit well initially anyway.
The standout for West Ham was Kurt Zouma, meeting crosses in the box and defending simply and effectively. His 12 clearances easily surpassed anyone else.
There was very little else to get stuck into, the game a boring chain of Chelsea passes to nowhere, recycling over and over, finding no gaps and no way through West Ham's defensive shape.
As he has recently, Fornals was able to make that deep shape into a five at the back, but off the ball was forward into wide areas. Where Benrahma seemed to play off the left, coming in from the flank in possession but defending wide, Paqueta was more central, closer to a central midfielder on the left of Rice.
There were glimpses of what West Ham could offer if they opened up and pushed for the win, one Emerson run highlighting how a left back with a bit of pace can add another element to the team.
There were nice touches from Paqueta, who will catch the eye for his flicks and tricks, but was combative, disciplined and worked hard, showing anyone who didn't realise that this isn't a Brazilian who only wants to dazzle, but will earn his right to entertain with graft, too.
The half came to a close at a stalemate, a 0-0 that was of no surprise to anyone. West Ham fans may well have feared that this defensive approach could only work until it didn't, and that being settled into a defensive patterns that allowed Chelsea supremacy would eventually break.
The Hammers came out with a little more intensity on the front foot, but it was that their opponents allowed them to come out, rather than a sudden change of tact. Chelsea failed to impress for long, long periods, and West Ham were allowed to shrug off their defensive mindset more easily in the second half. Whereas the opening 45 minutes saw Moyes's side struggling to add that attacking threat to their game.
Still, incidents were short. What the match needed was a little bit of needle, and that came when Reece James was beaten to the ball by Antonio and knocked to the ground. His reaction was to kick out at Antonio, hitting his studs into the striker's thigh. As Antonio turned to lecture his opponent - without raising his hands or getting physical - James shoved Antonio. The result? Yellow cards for the pair. Hmm?
Not long after, the striker pulled Silva down when chasing for the ball. The pair had come together, and the incident was rightly called a foul and nothing more. Wait for it to be brought up, though. It's called clutching at straws.
Tuchel threw on both Mount and Broja, two players who have played well against West Ham in the past, and both of whom were more effective than the pair they replaced, Pulisic and Gallagher only proving why they remain on the fringes of Tuchel's team.
Soon, West Ham won their first corner, to make it a 10-1 count by 60 minutes. The first was cleared, but fell on the edge of the box to Bowen, who brilliantly volleyed the dropping ball back at goal, forcing Mendy into the first real save of the game.
The second corner came in and was flicked on at the near post by Paqueta. It sailed to the back post, right in on goal, and Mendy couldn't deal with it. His touch on the ball only flicked it down softly for Rice close to the byline.
The captain quickly poked it back at goal, where Antonio could smash in from less than a yard out to give his side a 1-0 win, and Antonio's first league goal of the season.
Having played with patience and discipline, the gameplan had worked, West Ham taking their chance when it was presented to them.
As is often the case, going ahead only seemed to wake up their opposition, and Chelsea's desperation started to force them to play with a little more pace, to play a little more directly. Having defended so well, West Ham started to crack a little.
It was Zouma who offered the first chink of light to Chelsea, a ball floated over him landing in the area. Zouma looked for his goalkeeper to come, as Fabianski expected his defender to deal with the ball. Broja sensed his chance, doing enough to get between the two and flick the ball at goal. Luckily for West Ham, he could only poke it right at the goalkeeper.
Chelsea threw on Chilwell and Havertz, a substitution that, by the end of the game, looked inspired. For West Ham, Antonio was removed for Benrahma.
With a pair of more physical goalscorers on the pitch in Broja and Havertz, Chelsea were no longer reluctant to cross. Two Sterling balls were bravely smothered by Fabianski as they dropped at his toes with strikers and defenders flying towards him.
The Chelsea equaliser came out of nothing, but another little error at the back gave them the opportunity.
A ball fired forward by Silva into the box was missed by Kehrer, and flicked on by Chilwell. The left back responded to his own header, chasing the ball as it raced to the byline.
Two yards from the line, Chilwell reached the ball. All he could do was flick it towards goal, but Fabianski had rushed out to meet him and saw the ball bounce between his legs and into an empty net. Questions will be asked about his decision making, and it would have been an easy save if he hadn't moved. It is now only 2 clean sheets in the last 17 Premier League games for West Ham.
Ogbonna was sent on, and soon Cornet was introduced to, for Paqueta and Fornals respectively.
With three minutes of time remaining, Cornet was presented with a huge chance. Cornet had regained possession high down the Chelsea right and laid off to Benrahma. The Algerian did brilliantly, dancing with the ball and darting down the side of the area to cross.
It arrowed to the back post, and Cornet was after it, rising into the air as he jumped from left to right and headed at goal. The header was good, Mendy was beaten, but the ball cannoned back off the post.
The ball went clear, and Chelsea went up the other end and won the game.
Broja held the ball patiently on the left, waiting for Chilwell to overlap, and rolled the ball forward into the left back's path.
The low cross went into the middle, where Havertz beat Ogbonna to the ball, hit it hard into the ground and saw it rifle past Fabianski and into the back of the net.
It was cruel, but cruel was soon redefined, taken in a direction of complete injustice and incompetence.
In a frantic ending, Chelsea had scored with only two minutes left to play, West Ham were not finished.
A bouncing ball in the Chelsea half was headed back to his own goal by Reece James. The header was short, but Bowen stumbled running into the area. Mendy beat him to the ball, but could only parry it out. The winger hurdled him, and Mendy stayed down.
Cornet was alert. He got onto the loose ball in the area, took touches to move into space and hammered into the roof of the net with Chelsea defenders desperately trying to block him.
The West Ham players flew into the corner, but Andrew Madley put his finger to his ear. Mendy had stayed down.
The replays showed it plainly. The Chelsea goalkeeper had fumbled the ball and been caught by Bowen's trailing foot as he hurdled over him. Considering Mendy had thrown himself at Bowen's toes, there was little else he could do but try get over him, which he did with minimal contact.
What had happened was Mendy feigned injury, seeing his error. He had attempted to do the same for the first goal, but this time the referee was buying what he was sold. VAR sent him over to the screen, and inevitably he was swayed by whoever in the VAR room was more incompetent than him.
With that, it ended 2-1. Chelsea had done little to earn it, but the standard of refereeing in this country is poor, and it often falls in the favour of certain teams. Once more, one of those teams benefited without deserving to.
And they'll continue to, such is the incompetence of English football and its officiating.
David Moyes: 7/10 The plan was working, and his late substitutes combined well for one big chance, whilst Cornet scored a perfectly legitimate goal that was overruled.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
Questions over the first goal, but Fabianski was brave on crosses at his toes, often colliding with those rushing at him.
Some smart defending, forced back but solid with it. Didn't offer anything offensively, but it wasn't really a game where he was expected to.
Defended well, with some fire, too. And made a darting run forward that will have caught the eyes of many. Part of a solid backline, but didn't stand out himself.
That?EUR(TM)s a big, big mistake to get under that ball and miss the header. Otherwise defended well.
Imperious, for the most part. Slightly too focused on Broja when Chilwell chases that ball for the equaliser, but his job of basic defending was done brilliantly. Whilst people look at a defence of Kehrer and Aguerd for ball progression, the defending comes first and Zouma is our best defender.
Defensively good, stealing the ball off toes, keeping a disciplined shape and shielding the defence well. Hopefully will not be punished for his very controlled thoughts on the VAR decision.
Quietly efficient, nothing spectacular, but always very controlled and combative in these kinds of games.
Still a little too quiet, but got up and down the flank, delivered well from corners, worked hard and forced the Mendy error that should have led to the equaliser.
As with Soucek, Fornals was very disciplined defensively and covered his areas well. Could have been better with the ball.
Not so much jogo bonito here, it was actually his defensive work and battling in the middle that gets the plaudits, including some important defending in his own box in the second half. Doesn't look too flash or soft for Moyes and the Premier League, that's for sure. Promising early signs.
Another poacher's goal, whilst he unsettled the Chelsea defence. Referees do not treat him fairly, and consistency in decisions would probably see Antonio winning endless freekicks and cards.
(Replaced Antonio 73) A very good cameo, with a great run and cross to set up Cornet.
(Replaced Fornals 82) Not sure it worked, and he was beaten to the ball by Havertz on the winner.
(Replaced Paqueta 85) Should have been the hero who scored a dramatic equaliser, but instead he's the man who missed a big chance before that. A cruel game.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Emerson Palmieri, Thilo Kehrer, Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Jarrod Bowen, Pablo Fornals, Lucas Paqueta, Michail Antonio.
Goals: Michail Antonio 62 .
Booked: Michail Antonio 0 Thilo Kehrer 0 .
Sent off: None.
Chelsea: Mendy, Fofana, Silva, Koulibaly, James, Kovacic (Havertz 72), Loftus-Cheek (Jorginho 83), Cucurella (Chilwell 72), Gallagher (Broja 60), Pulisic (Mount 60), Sterling.
Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Chalobah, Azpilicueta, Ziyech.
Goals: Chilwell (76), Havertz (88).
Booked: Loftus-Cheek, Cucurella, James, Havertz.
Sent off: None.
Referee: Andy Madley.
Man of the Match: Kurt Zouma.