Three talking points as West Ham battled to victory against Chelsea
David Moyes tasted victory for the first time as manager of West Ham as Mark Arnautovic’s early goal and some excellent defending proved enough to overcome Chelsea in Saturday’s London derby.
The Hammers started on the front foot at the London Stadium, backed by their rapturous home crowd, and it was little surprise when Arnautovic tucked home a deft finish after just six minutes.
David Zappacosta forced Adrian – who retained his starting berth ahead of Joe Hart – into a smart low save before the break but Chelsea found it tough to create openings against a stubborn defence.
Antonio Conte rang the changes at half-time as he looked to haul his side back into the game, bringing Pedro into the fray before introducing both Willian and Victor Moses, but they simply couldn’t wear down West Ham’s brilliant rear-guard defending despite dominating possession.
They did eventually carve out one clear chance with just six minutes to go but Alvaro Morata fired wide with the goal at his mercy, and the hosts did enough to hold out for a gritty and deserved win.
The result sees Chelsea miss out on the chance to draw level on points with Manchester United ahead of tomorrow’s Manchester derby, whilst West Ham move level with West Brom in 17th place.
Hammers rear-guard efforts secure derby win
Heading into Saturday’s London derby, West Ham had an awful defensive record.
They had conceded 32 goals from their opening 15 Premier League matches, making it their worst start to a season since 1965, and very few gave them much hope against a high-flying Chelsea side.
But it’s the unpredictability of football that makes it an exciting sport and the relegation strugglers proved to be more than a match for their title-chasing opponents, and after falling so agonisingly short away at Manchester City last weekend they made sure to close out a vital result this time around.
It was a miraculous defensive effort from the hosts, who had their backs against the walls from the moment Arnautovic gave them the lead on six minutes, but their focus never wavered for a second.
The returning Winston Reid was an imposing figure in the middle but it was Aaron Cresswell who stood out the most in a central role, adjusting to a different position and subduing Chelsea’s potent threats.
For the majority of the match the hosts played with nine or ten men behind the ball and they just put their bodies on the line, showing the spirit and resolve of a team that should be able to avoid relegation.
Yet it wasn’t a snatch and grab win by any means, with the visitors failing to have a single shot on target after the break, and David Moyes will no doubt enjoy the sweet taste of victory for the first time.
Arnautovic off the mark in match-winning display
If there was one man who epitomised West Ham’s dogged efforts against their rivals on Saturday lunchtime then that man was Marko Arnautovic, who put in an excellent shift from the first whistle.
The Austrian has come in for a lot of criticism since his £24million move from Stoke City over the summer, making the headlines for all the wrong reasons and falling out of favour with Slaven Bilic.
And David Moyes’ appointment came with a stern message for Arnautovic, with the new Hammers boss urging him to become more of a team player, but it seems the recent arrival of Moyes has sparked a remarkable turnaround in the 28-year-old’s attitude – and this was clear against Chelsea.
There was a hunger to his play that hadn’t been seen in his 11 Premier League appearances prior to Saturday, playing with a desire to win the ball and mucking in and helping his team defend superbly.
There won’t be a more relieved man in east London tonight either after he finally got off the mark for the Hammers, opening his West Ham account and scoring his first goal for almost eight months.
It was a finish that was worthy of all three points in all truth, with Arnautovic playing an intricate one-two on the edge of the penalty area before shuffling into a yard of space and deftly passing the ball into the net, and the way he jumped into the crowd to celebrate showed just much it meant.
The key now is for him to push on and try and add some consistency into his game, but for now there’s no doubt that he’ll enjoy the well-deserved plaudits for a goal that beat fierce rivals Chelsea.
Sluggish Chelsea spurn chance to close the gap
With the Manchester derby taking place on Sunday afternoon, Chelsea would have gone into their encounter at the London Stadium knowing a win would make up ground on the teams above them.
Three points would have seen them draw level with Manchester United in second place and ramp up the pressure on Jose Mourinho’s side ahead of their looming clash with rivals and Premier League leaders Manchester City, putting Chelsea firmly in the mix with the festive period approaching around the corner.
Yet Antonio Conte’s team clearly missed the narrative and failed to hold up their end against an inspired West Ham side, and it was once again down to the fact that they started the match slowly.
For the second time in a week they found themselves behind inside the opening 15 minutes but, unlike last Saturday where they turned it around against Newcastle, they couldn’t grind down West Ham.
The Blues looked sluggish and tired at times – perhaps not helped by their gruelling midweek Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid – and they sat back, failing to press the Hammers and struggling to string meaningful passes together, with Conte cutting an extremely frustrated figure on the touchline.
They may have enjoyed vast amounts of possession but they couldn’t turn it into goals, and the fact that they didn’t manage a single shot on target in the second-half despite having 71% of the ball tells its own story.
That said, they still could have salvaged a point late on only to see Alvaro Morata somehow miss the target with the goal at his mercy, and it’s fair to say it just wasn’t Chelsea’s day over in east London.
Neither Morata nor Eden Hazard – who had more goals between them (14) than the whole West Ham side (13) before kick-off – were at their best and Conte will rue what was a missed opportunity to keep the pace.
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