Chelsea came through a hard fought battle at Upton Park to keep themselves five points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Eden Hazard scored the only goal of an end to end game to secure the three points, and only magnificent saves from the two goalkeepers prevented more goals on the night.
The league leaders started with almost the exact same side that won the League Cup on Sunday, with Oscar coming in for Willian in the only outfield change. Thibaut Courtois was back in goal for Petr Cech, while Kurt Zouma continued to play in midfield in place of the suspended Nemanja Matic.
After playing a cup final on Wembley and celebrating success after, there were real questions about what kind of shape the Blues would be in for this game. So few changes hinted that they were ready for this, and that was proven as the visitors started the better of the two sides. They dominated the first 20 minutes and then finally made their control pay. Ramires’ cross was met by Hazard, a rare headed goal for the diminutive Belgian.
West Ham believed he was offside, and they had a point, but luck rarely goes with a side who are as out of form as the Hammers. With just one league win since losing at Stamford Bridge last December, Sam Allardyce’s side have seen their season start to tail off after an excellent start. That didn’t seem to affect them here, as they came roaring back after the opening goal.
Courtois did well to deny Diafra Sakho, and from there the Belgian keeper had to stay on his toes as the game opened up and both sides were given more and more chances. Ramires hit the post in the second half, while Diego Costa was involved a lot. At the other end it was Sakho and Enner Valencia who were most threatening for the hosts.
Despite the open nature of the game, and those chances, there weren’t any more breakthroughs, and that had a lot to do with Chelsea’s resilient defending. All of the Blues’ players put in a shift as they looked to protect their lead. With Man City winning comfortably over Leicester elsewhere, there was no room for slip-ups here.
In the end West Ham couldn’t force a way through, and they ended up with another defeat. They played well, but Jose Mourinho and his Chelsea side know how to get games won at this stage of the campaign. While this wasn’t as easy as he would have liked, the manager will certainly be glad of the points. After the game he praised his side’s defending, which helped to churn out another victory.
After sealing one trophy on Sunday, this is another big step to landing a second. The lead is still five points with a game in hand, and now attention turns to the meeting with PSG in a week’s time.
LCN Man of the Match: Eden Hazard