Chelsea suffered our first defeat since the return to action despite taking the lead at the London Stadium, going down to a 90th-minute goal by the home side.
Set-pieces played a major role in Wednesday night’s derby but it was a winner scored on the break by substitute Andriy Yarmolenko that decided a contest in which chances came more frequently as the time ticked on.
Willian scored both Chelsea goals, taking him onto five in the past six games and 10 for the season, the first tonight from the penalty spot and the second an inch perfect free-kick. Both of those set-pieces were won by the incisive play of Christian Pulisic who continued to look his side’s most in-form player, but a price was paid when our defensive frailties resurfaced.
A headed goal from a corner from Hammers’ midfielder Tomas Soucek levelled the scores up at 1-1 shortly before half-time and shortly after Willian had struck the opener, and just before we had gone 1-0 up there had been relief when VAR ruled out a goal for West Ham after we had failed to defend another corner.
Michail Antonio did give West Ham a 2-1 lead shortly after half-time but after Willian’s late free-kick, the game looked to be heading for a draw once both sides had not taken a chance apeice, before the sickening late blow and defeat that denied Frank Lampard’s men the chance to move up to third in the table.
There was no doubting Chelsea, playing our first game in our new kit with Three as the shirt sponsor, had almost total control of possession from the off and there were testing balls into the Hammers’ box from out wide, and one promising penalty area run from Pulisic before Willian had the first shot – fired straight at Lukasz Fabianski.
Soon after that however there was an escape for the Blues when Michail Antonio dragged his attempt wide having powered into a shooting position after Christensen had initially misplaced a pass forward.
Barkley tried his luck from distance with 18 minutes played but again Fabianski caught it with both hands, although the Hammers’ keeper would surely have been left helpless had Pulisic struck his shot on target a minute later from much closer range, after Abraham had dummied Barkley’s pass. That was clearly the best chance of the game so far, especially for a player in such good form post-lockdown.
Hammers opener thwarted
By the 34th-minute mark Chelsea had 75 per cent of the ball but still only that one genuine opening to score and given we had not made our superiority pay, there was something of a sense of inevitability that West Ham would find a way to put the ball in the net from their first corner of the game.
Messy was the word as the delivery skimmed off the head of Alonso and dropped at the far post where there was a scramble, two ricochets and bodies on the floor before Soucek bundled it in.
However the celebrations from David Moyes and his relegation-threatened players were soon cut short by a VAR check for offside, and it was quickly clear it was going to be a lengthy one. Plenty of lines were drawn on the screen and they eventually deduced Antonio on the floor had been impeding the view of Kepa from an offside position. No goal.
Pulisic impact continues
The action came thick and fast after that. With 40 minutes played, Pulisic darted on to the ball and past Issa Diop who could not help himself from sticking out a leg. Penalty! Converted by Willian, who hit it pretty much the same spot as his winner against Man City last Thursday.
A half-time lead beckoned but then West Ham won their second corner, and Chelsea dealt with it no better than the first. Soucek at the far post again sent it on target, this time with his head, and with Kepa having left his line and Abraham back on it but getting in a tangle, the ball bounced in. It must have been a frustrated Frank Lampard who went back to the dressing room for half-time.
Second-half chances at both ends
Matters got worse six minutes into the second half when West Ham took the lead, from open play this time, Antonio the scorer. The striker initially went down under a challenge from Rudiger but his team-mates worked the ball out wide quickly and when Jarrod Bowen squared the ball in, he was back on his feet to convert from the edge of the six-yard box.
Lampard’s immediate reaction was to bring on Mason Mount for Kovacic but the next chance came the home side’s way as well, fired over the bar by Lanzini.
Willian did well to reach and cross a ball which Ruben Loftus-Cheek could not quite get on the end of before Pulisic crossed just over the top of Olivier Giroud. Both those frustrated in front of the goal had just been subbed on at the same time.
It was the American who turned and ran at the West Ham defence superbly to earn the free-kick from which Chelsea made it 2-2 with 72 minutes played. Willian and Alonso lined up behind it form 25 yards out but it was the Brazilian who curved it over the wall and in off the far post, a perfect strike.
Pulisic went close to a goal himself moments later but when Kepa made an important block at the feet of Antonio at the other end it look like points were going to be shared. But there was still time for West Ham to counter and find Yarmolenko in plenty of space. The Ukranian fired the ball into the far bottom corner.
Christian Pulisic and Andreas Christensen both passed fitness tests and were picked from the start. Nine of the players were the same as the 11 who began the win against Manchester City in our most recent Premier League game last Thursday, but Tammy Abraham who had come in for Olivier Giroud in the FA Cup game at Leicester retained his place and Mateo Kovacic played in place of Mason Mount. West Ham were missing their skipper Mark Noble.
The race for the top four
With this defeat we remain two points clear of Man United and Wolves after their recent wins, and following Leicester’s defeat at Everton tonight, we are still a point behind the Foxes.
A three-day gap before our second match at Stamford Bridge since the restart – a game against another of the bottom-five sides, Watford. That is an 8pm kick-off UK time. The Hornets have had a free midweek having lost at home to Southampton last time out.