We’ll have one of those, please. And,er, perhaps one of those.
There was no doubting West Ham’s pluck in tackling a formidable Chelsea side at the London Stadium on Monday night. Nor could there be an assault on their effort, their invention or even, on occasion, their touch.
They came to Stratford with intent and were, initially, undaunted. They headed in the right direction, strung pretty stuff together in fits and starts but … but they simply lacked an Eden Hazard to turn a game on its head, or a N’Golo Kante to see a way through the haze.
Sublime, swift, potent Chelsea against West Ham’s yeoman’s press.
Chelsea always on the prowl
The Blues were happy to absorb long periods of West Ham pressure, sure in their knowledge that the speed of thought and action of their pocket powerhouse was sufficient to turn the game around.
Their fans chanted sure of that eventuality. Ant-on-i-o, they sang, but not for Michail for he was suspended, his forthright running sorely missed in the final third.
The first goal, Hazard’s brilliant effort after a piece of enterprise by Kante, appeared to be against the run of play, destabilising a West Ham side that were confident in their game and pursuing their busy plan.
But maybe that was Chelsea’s indolence was a deception.
Ultimately, it was hurry-scurry and hamper-scamper from West Ham whereas Chelsea rested their foot on the throat of the match and applied the fatal pressure at will.
Diego Costa’s second goal, off the thigh, was no artwork and Manuel Lanzini’s 92nd consolation was no less than West Ham deserved for the part they played. And a 1-2 scoreline seemed fair but it could have been 0-4 if Chelsea had been truly on their game.
Robert Snodgrass typified West Ham. He showed great strength down the left – the most fruitful avenue – blundering through with power. But often his cross failed to make a difference. It’s only a matter of small degrees but that’s what Chelsea find and West Ham do not.
It was remarkable how many simple, short passes fell short of their target, with playing breaking down and frustration creeping in. Chelsea are gleeful devourers of opposition mistakes.
Andy Carroll posed no kind of threat so the good work done by Snodgrass, Noble and Lanzini and Feghouli had no purpose against Chelsea’s brick defence.
'They deserved to win'
Slaven Bilic said: “They deserved to beat us. It’s very simple. If you want to beat Chelsea then you have to hope for their mistakes and use them.
“If it’s the other way around and you make mistakes, they use them straight away and it’s very hard. I’m disappointed.”
If West Ham were in trouble you’d pick them out as a side likely to stay up but, as they’re staying up, the best that can be said is they dominated for 25 minutes and showed flashes of genuine invention.
It was one of those games. Beaten by a better side. Beaten by the likely champions. No complaints.
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