West Ham comfortably beaten as Chelsea march towards the title
PUBLISHED: 22:07 06 March 2017 | UPDATED: 22:11 06 March 2017
Hammers midfielder Manuel Lanzini scored a late consolation but the Blues take the points at the London Stadium
West Ham United 1 Chelsea 2
Slaven Bilić’s Hammers were left with the Blues as Antonio Conté’s thoroughbreds continued their gallop to the title thanks to goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa at the London Stadium.
And although substitute André Ayew set up Manuel Lanzini for a late consolation, it all was all too late for battling West Ham United.
On the day when the plans for their own, new £500 million, 60,000 Stamford Bridge arena were approved by mayor Sadiq Khan, this win also enabled Chelsea to build up a 10-point lead at the top of the table as Hazard’s 11th goal of the season gave them the lead midway through the first half, before Costa sealed victory just after the break with his 18th strike of the campaign.
Back in October, the Hammers had seen off Chelsea in an epic EFL Cup battle but despite showing plenty of East End spirit in the opening 20 minutes, there was to be no repeat performance as the Blues clinically exacted their revenge.
Kicking off in 11th spot, West Ham had made just one enforced change from the side that had drawn at Watford last time out as fit-again Andy Carroll came in for the suspended Michail Antonio.
And with just five minutes on referee Andre Marriner’s watch, the Big Man was in the wars again, when Cheikhou Kouyaté played Sofiane Feghouli into the right-hand corner but with the Algerian whipping over a hanging cross, the climbing Carroll needed treatment after clashing heads with former Hammers’ loanee Victor Moses.
Thankfully for Bilić, the lone-striker was soon back on his feet chasing anything and everything that came his way as West Ham – roared on by an enthusiastic East End crowd – forced a trio of early corners and conceded five free-kicks without reply.
Last time out, Chelsea had seen off Swansea City to maintain pole position in the race for the Premier League and, following that victory, Conté named an unchanged team but the Blues were more pre-occupied with containing the claret and blues in the opening exchanges.
But on 25 minutes the whole complexion of this contest changed when Mark Noble again tried to slip wing-back Feghouli back into that right-hand corner but having telegraphed his intentions, N’Golo Kanté intercepted and burst forward of the pushed-up home defence.
With Hazard in support, the Frenchman found the Belgian, who played a crisp one-two with Spaniard Cesc Fàbregas before collecting the return, rounding the advancing Darren Randolph and slotting home from 12 yards to claim a goal that was well and truly made in Europe.
After their bright start, the Hammers had committed footballing suicide and such was Kouyaté’s frustration that he soon bundled goal-scorer Hazard to the ground without seeing yellow from the lenient Mr Marriner.
Five minutes before the break, Bilić’s boys had a great chance to level, when Lanzini combined with Noble but the Argentinian sent his rising 15-yarder over the crossbar.
Just before the interval, things could have got yet worse for West Ham, when the galloping Hazard squared across the face of the six-yard box and, although Costa completely missed his kick, Moses’ angled screamer was blocked by Aaron Cresswell before Randolph brilliantly beat away Pedro’s 15-yard follow-up.
The visitors may have been restricted to just one goal before the break but within four minutes of the restart, they had doubled their lead, when Hazard’s left-wing corner skimmed off Pedro Obiang’s scalp and Costa bundled the ball past Robert Snodgrass on the line.
Moments later, Marcos Alonso waltzed into the Hammers area before sending a low, angled shot just inches beyond the far post, while at the other end Snodgrass saw his goal-bound effort blocked before Noble’s appeals for a penalty fell on deaf ears as he followed up with another screamer and, with Chelsea still failing to clear the danger, José Fonte nodded Winston Reid’s cross over the top.
That was the cue for Ayew and Sam Byram to replace Feghouli and the hobbling Reid, while Nemanja Matić came on for Pedro.
Midway through the second period, Hazard invited Costa to turn and unleash a low 10-yarder that Randolph brilliantly diverted aside for a corner before both sides completed a full suit of substitutions as Hazard and Moses made way for Willian and Kurt Zouma, while Noble retired in place of Edimilson Fernandes but, by now, Chelsea were content to trot to the finish line.
In the second minute of stoppage time, Ayew squared to Lanzini who fired past Thibaut Courtois but it was too little too late to prevent Chelsea from claiming anything but all three points.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Kouyaté, Reid (Byram 64), Fonte, Feghouili (Ayew 64), Cresswell, Obiang, Noble (Fernandes 76), Snodgrass, Lanzini, Carroll. Unused sub: Adrián, Collins, Masuaku, Calleri.
BLUES: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Moses (Zouma 76), Alonso, Kanté, Fàbregas, Pedro (Matić 64), Hazard (Willian 73), Costa. Unused subs: Begović, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Terry.
Booked: Fàbregas (45+2)
Referee: Andre Marriner.