10th of December 2017

Blues slip to narrow defeat away to Hammers (0-1)

Unlike last week the Blues couldn’t recover from conceding an early goal, so we suffered a first league defeat in eight on a freezing afternoon in east London.

It was Marko Arnautovic who netted inside the opening 10 minutes is the Blues started slowly against our struggling opponents.

Eden Hazard volleyed wide and Adrian saved well from N’Golo Kante and Davide Zappacosta as we chased a leveller before the break. We continued to have most of the play after half-time, but the hosts defended resolutely and in numbers. Alvaro Morata and Hazard missed the target with our best chances, both inside the final 10 minutes.

So we taste defeat in the Premier League for the first time since the reverse at Crystal Palace, also in London. The chance to return to winning ways comes quickly as we visit Huddersfield Town on Tuesday night.

Antonio Conte deemed a single change necessary from the midweek European fixture, bringing Marcos Alonso back into the side. Zappacosta, who had filled the left wing-back role on Tuesday, switched across to the right, and Victor Moses dropped to the bench. Cesar Azpilicueta made his 250th Chelsea appearance.

David Moyes opted to keep faith with Adrian in goal, despite Joe Hart’s availability, and he also brought captain Mark Noble and Arnautovic back into the team.

It was the former Stoke man who opened the scoring early on, neatly exchanging passes with Manuel Lanzini on the edge of the box before curling a low effort past both Azpilicueta and Thibaut Courtois. Six minutes had been played.

The goal, Arnautovic’s first for West Ham, gave the home crowd and players the early boost they craved. Chelsea would have to come from behind to win, as we had against Newcastle seven days ago.

In response, Morata had a claim for a penalty waved away, and on 20 minutes Hazard volleyed a headed clearance past the far post.

Between those openings Alonso picked up his fourth domestic booking of the season, for a high challenge on Adrian.

The West Ham keeper was called into action twice in as many minutes as the half-hour mark approached, on both occasions diving to his left to claw out well-struck efforts from first N’Golo Kante, and then Davide Zappacosta. They would prove to be his only saves all game.

Space was in short supply as the hosts congested the midfield. From a wide position, Zappacosta crossed to Morata who couldn’t get a clean connection on his header, and the striker then poked well over after a loose ball fell his way.

But the half ended how it began, with West Ham on top. Conte had a big half-time team talk ahead of him.

The boss decided to make a switch at the interval: Pedro for Tiemoue Bakayoko. The no.11 found Fabregas with an incisive pass deep in West Ham territory, and the cutback that followed fell narrowly behind Morata. Fabregas’s diving header was then blocked by Angelo Ogbonna.

Moses for Alonso was Conte’s next change with 10 minutes of the second half played. Zappacosta went back over to the left.

It was from that position the Italian bent a cross-shot goalwards that evaded Fabregas’s head, Hazard’s foot and, frustratingly, the far post too.

Adrian was booked for time-wasting from the resulting goal-kick, an early indicator of West Ham’s intentions with not an hour played. Shortly after, Willian replaced Zappacosta.

Winston Reid and Aaron Cresswell were the next Hammers booked for cynical fouls. From the free-kick awarded for the latter foul, Christensen’s volley was well blocked by Reid.

Pedro Obiang made it five West Ham players carded after stopping Kante in his tracks. We were meeting a wall of claret-and-blue shirts every time we attacked.

When a good opening did fall Morata’s way from Kante’s dinked pass, the Spaniard fired wide. With 82 minutes played, it was our best chance yet. Conte’s reaction told a story.

Morata immediately did much better teeing up Hazard on the edge of the box, but unlike in recent weeks the brilliant Belgian couldn’t hit the target on his left.

Into five minutes of added time, Fabregas shot over from 20 yards, and Adrian then claimed one final Chelsea cross swung in to the six-yard box. It had not been our day.


- Match stats;

Chelsea (3-5-2): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Cahill (c); Zappacosta (Willian 64), Bakayoko (Pedro h/t), Kante, Fabregas, Alonso (Moses 55); Hazard, Morata.
Booked Alonso 18

West Ham (3-4-2-1): Adrian; Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Zabaleta, Obiang, Noble (c), Masuaku; Arnautovic (Sakho 69), Lanzini; Antonio (Ayew 79).
Scorer Arnautovic 6
Booked Arnautovic 7, Adrian 58, Reid 67, Cresswell 68, Obiang 70, Masuaku 87

Referee Anthony Taylor
Crowd 56,953

- Match report by chelseafc.com


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