Chelsea back in pole position for top four finish following yet another away victory for Tuchel’s Blues.
The London Stadium was lightened by beaming rays of sunshine ahead of Saturday evening’s all-London clash, as David Moyes’ West Ham hosted Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea in a crucial game within the race for Champions League football.
In this exact fixture last season, the Hammers left East London with all three points, defeating Frank Lampard’s Chelsea 3-2 to ensure a place in this year’s Premier League campaign. This time out, West Ham find themselves at the opposite end of the table, hunting a place that ensures European football for next season.
Moyes’ side entered the game heavily affected by injuries and suspensions, with the likes of former Chelsea academy player Declan Rice absent for the hosts. There were two changes made to the West Ham starting eleven, with Fabián Balbuena and Ryan Fredericks replacing the suspended Craig Dawson and 21-year-old Ben Johnson.
Chelsea however arrived with a full squad to choose from, excluding Croatian international Mateo Kovačić who was absent through injury. Thomas Tuchel once again heavily rotated his starting eleven by making six changes to the line-up that drew with Brighton on Tuesday evening.
Édouard Mendy, Thiago Silva, César Azpilicueta, Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kanté and Timo Werner were the players recalled to the starting line-up, with the German coach perhaps keeping an eye on Tuesday’s European clash in Madrid.
In what looked to be a game of fine margins, it was Chelsea who started bright and came close to an early opener through Timo Werner.
The German international showed great movement to find himself space within the penalty area, but failed to keep his effort on goal low and on hit the target.
On the 9th minute, Blues star man Mason Mount looked to create something out of nothing in a congested Hammers penalty area. The England midfielder showed great skill as he stood his man off before swiftly turning onto his weaker left foot, but saw his attempt saved by Łukasz Fabiański.
The Blues looked hungry in the opening 15 minutes as they put together another nice move in the hopes of breaking down a strong West Ham backline.
An adventurous long ball found the blistering pace of Timo Werner, who used his speed to move the Blues forward into a dangerous position. Werner then looked to create for his side as he found Christian Pulisic inside the penalty area, but the American failed to capitalise –leaving a comfortable stop for Fabiański.
It looked a steady affair in the capital with both sides looking defensively sound. However, it was Tuchel’s Blues who were dominant and calling the shots – with Chelsea seeing 73% of possession in the opening 28 minutes.
As the first half unfolded, there was another chance for striker Timo Werner, who once again failed to keep his shot down, with his troubles in front of goal continuing.
The Hammers also went on to have their best chance of the game, with the ball bouncing from player to player in the Chelsea penalty area before deflecting off Blues skipper Azpilicueta – with the ball creeping just wide of the post.
Despite the chance for the hosts, West Ham failed to create enough opportunities in the first period and were punished by Timo Werner, who fired Chelsea ahead just before the break.
It was another superb move from Chelsea, as the Blues breezed forward with defender Ben Chilwell sweeping a dangerous cross inside the penalty area. Once again, the movement from Werner was excellent, with the German converting just his second league goal of the calendar year.
With Chelsea keeping 16 clean sheets in their previous 20 games under Tuchel, it looked to be a tough task for David Moyes’ side to edge their way back into the game in the final 45 minutes.
Despite the Hammers being desperate to keep their Champions League dreams alive, it was the visitors who continued to press. The Blues came close to another goal early in the second half as Mason Mount forced Fabiański into making a full stretch save. The rebound then fell to goal scorer Timo Werner, who failed to find his second with the rebound.
The hosts needed to remind Chelsea that they were still very much in the game, and did exactly that as Jesse Lingard’s lofted attempt from the edge of the area came close to finding the back of the net.
In response, the Blues game back with efforts on goal from both Mount and Werner – with both shots being denied by West Ham’s Polish shot stopper.
As the game winded down, Tuchel’s side did exactly what they do best – holding on.
Chelsea have conceded just three league goals from the 76th minute onwards, which is a credit to their newfound defensive stability.
With 10 minutes of regular time to go, the Hammers were hit with another blow as Fabián Balbuena was awarded a red card for a follow through challenge on Ben Chilwell.
The tough task then became even tougher for Moyes side, who struggled to break their opponents down. As the minutes unwound, it turned out to be yet another victory for Thomas Tuchel to claim, as Chelsea moved back into fourth position – completing a league double over their opponents.
After the whistle:
After a disappointing draw against Brighton at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday evening, Chelsea made up for lost points with an impressive victory over an inform West Ham side.
Despite the fact their opponents were without key squad players, the Blues did a fantastic job in capitalising a valuable victory and yet another clean sheet.
With their Premier League future now in back their own hands, Tuchel’s side will feel more relieved going into their Champions League semi-final on Tuesday night against Real Madrid.
For West Ham it was a devasting blow in their admirable fight for Champions League football next season. David Moyes will also feel frustrated over the controversial red card that his side were awarded too, making their battle even harder over the final five games.
In the hopes of still squeezing back into a top four spot, the Hammers are back in action on Monday May 3rd, as the Londoners travel to Lancashire to take on Burnley.
West Ham United 0-1 Chelsea.
- Werner (43’).
BBC Sports player of the match:
Timo Werner (Chelsea).
West Ham United (3-4-1-2): Fabiański; Diop, Balbuena, Ogbonna; Coufal, Noble © (69'), Souček, Fredericks (83'); Fornals (69'); Lingard, Bowen.
- Subs: Lanzini (69’), Benrahma (69’), Johnson (83’).
Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Mendy; Christensen, Silva, Rüdiger; Azpilicueta © (86'), Kanté, Jorginho, Chilwell; Mount, Pulisic (74'); Werner (87').
- Subs: Ziyech (74’), James (86’), Abraham (87’).
West Ham United (45%) vs Chelsea (55%).
West Ham United (9) vs Chelsea (17).
Shots on target:
West Ham United (2) vs Chelsea (6).
West Ham United (4) vs Chelsea (2).
West Ham United (9) vs Chelsea (11).
- (credit | BBC Sport).
- (credit | Sky Sports Football).
Written by Ryan Bellenie @BellenieSport.