A mixed encounter at the London Stadium see Chelsea re-establish a 10 point lead at the top of the Premier League, 11 games remain and watching the competent Conte army, it’s hard to see how the title wont be theirs come May.
West Ham opened the game with a collective, clear focus in mind – Andy Carroll’s head. Evident from the 32 crosses during the game, they knew this Chelsea side are too compact in the middle with a back 5 assisted by an industrious Kante, so went back to basics and unleashed an assault of crosses towards the number 9.
It wasn’t to be, however, as the stronghold of Cahill, Azpilicueta and David Luiz ensured Courtois’ front door couldn’t be fractured. Moses has transformed himself into one of most efficient and consistent full backs in the country as he rebuffed a rampant Snodgrass, who was arguably the most notable attacking threat in claret and blue. Quite purely, the away team were like a stubborn scorpion patiently waiting to strike a killer blow when the time was right.
That time came in the 25th minute. The home defence littered the Chelsea box for a direct free kick, the wall did it’s job and after muddled midfield play from the rebound, Kante snatched the ball and released Hazard. In a swift movement, the aforementioned Belgian and team-mate Pedro were catapulting themselves at an inert Cresswell and his ‘keeper, both powerless to prevent Hazard’s smart evasion and inevitable finish.
West Ham continued to press well after conceding but on more than one occasion left themselves high and dry with Feghouli, who was substituted early in the second half, being culpable for the majority.
Chelsea soon went 2-0 up thanks to Fabregas’ corner leading to a glancing near post header from Kouyate, gifting Costa a much ‘kneeded’ close-range patella finish to claim his 18th of the season.
The game then tired, Chelsea’s venom settling into the bellies of the impotent yet commendable home players. The feeling grew that, despite having the larger share of passes, possession, set-pieces and shots, they had succumbed to the majesty of Chelsea’s superiority.
A late consolation from Lanzini is the only concern for Conte as his side seemed to snooze too soon, but from a general perspective this showed that Chelsea are a well oiled killing machine, ready to repel even the most noble of performances and strike when needed.
Teams, stats and ratings
Chelsea: Courtois (6), Cahill (7), David Luiz (7), Azpilicueta (7), Alonso (6), Moses (8), Kante (8), Fabregas (5), Pedro (7), Hazard (9), Costa (7); Subs: Zouma (5), Willian (5), Matic (6)
West Ham: Randolph (6), Cresswell (7), Reid (5), Fonte (5), Kouyate (6), Noble (5), Lanzini (6), Obiang (5), Snodgrass (7), Feghouli (4), Carroll (6); Subs: Ayew (6), Byram (5), Fernandes (5)
Shots: WHU 11, CHE 9; On Target: WHU 2, CHE 4; Possession: WHU 51.8%, CHE 48.2%; Passes: WHU 554, CHE 530; Pass %: WHU 83.6%, CHE 84%; Corners: WHU 6, CHE 4; Fouls: WHU 8, CHE 8; Yellows: WHU 0, CHE 1 (Fabregas, 45+2)