A late strike from Diego Costa gave Antonio Conte a winning start to his Chelsea career. Eden Hazard had given the Blues the lead from the penalty spot, only for James Collins to smash home an equaliser.
Conte started with 10 of the 11 players that Mourinho selected on the opening day last term. He had little choice but to go with the same back four, but he left out new signing Michy Batshuayi. The only change from that awful Swansea game was Cesc Fabregas dropping out. He was replaced by new signing N’Golo Kante, with the Frenchman taking the holding role in a 4-1-4-1 formation.
The new man waited just two and half minutes before making an impact, as he picked up a very early booking. There was a nervousness about the Blues early on, with the team looking a little shaky at the back. They began pressing more after a slow first 10 minutes, and from then on they looked a lot more comfortable.
The Blues had to grow into this one, but they were quickly pressuring the Hammers. Oscar slinked his way into the box but he was pulled down before he could get a shot off. The referee waved away the Blues’ protests, with Diego Costa getting booked for approaching Anthony Taylor. That could be a regular occurrence this term.
The first half ended goalless, but Antonio Conte’s men got themselves ahead straight after the restart. Michail Antonio fouled Cesar Azpilicueta, and this time the referee did point to the spot. Hazard converted, meaning he opened his account for the season much earlier this term than last. It was also no less than his first half display deserved, he was far and away the best player on the pitch.
The Blues had a few half chances, but they were unable to double their lead. West Ham made them pay for that, as they equalised with less than 15 minutes to go. Dimitri Payet’s free-kick was deflected out for a corner, at which point the defence seemed to relax. Moments later some penalty box pinball resulted in a fantastic half volley from Collins. That was the centre-half’s fourth goal against Chelsea, over half his career haul.
Conte brought on Batshuayi, Pedro and Moses for Oscar, Willian and Hazard as he pushed for a second goal. That prompted a switch to the 4-2-4 formation that the Italian is fond of. Playing two forwards meant the home side were immediately asking questions of the West Ham back four.
It took just four minutes for those changes to work, as the Blues found a late winner. We saw glimmers of a budding strike partnership in the goal, as Costa picked up Batshuayi’s knock down. The Spanish forward still had plenty to do, but he fired home from 20 yards. Thibaut Courtois had to make a late save from Enner Valencia, which gave Conte the perfect start in his new post.
LCN Man of the Match: Hazard