Belfast Telegraph

Classy Chelsea machine dishes out hammer blow

West Ham 1 Chelsea 2

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

It does not matter how well Manchester City and Tottenham are playing, if Chelsea keep on like this there will be no title race. Antonio Conte's side cruised to another win last night, a 2-1 dispatching of West Ham which showcased everything that is going to make them Premier League champions of 2016-17.

Chelsea held off a powerful but predictable Hammers attack right until Manuel Lanzini scored a meaningless consolation at the very end.

Before then Eden Hazard had scored a brilliant goal on the break, underlining his status as the best player in the country right now. Then Diego Costa bundled one in, his 17th in this Premier League season, killing the game just five minutes into the second half.

The rest of the game was an exercise in control and there was never any doubt that Chelsea would leave with the three points, even when Lanzini scored with the game's last real action.

Those points move Chelsea 10 points clear of Spurs and 11 points ahead of City, who have an extra game to play. But City and Spurs could win every remaining match this season and still not bother the engravers.

This Chelsea team is a machine and looks very capable of hitting the 92-point target Conte has set for them.

There are no prizes in football for complexity and West Ham made clear from the very start what they wanted to do to Chelsea. The Hammers beat the champions-elect here in the League Cup in October and this time they had Andy Carroll, the man who transforms how they can play.

If there is any weakness in this Chelsea side it is in the air and so West Ham did exactly what you would expect, flinging the ball into the box whenever they could. The first damage Carroll did, though, was to himself, cutting his face when he jumped with Victor Moses.

Slaven Bilic's men continued to get crosses in, Carroll targeting Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta at every opportunity.

Chelsea did not get into the game but it did not matter.

This is a deadly counter-attacking team and it only took one break for them to take the lead.

West Ham sent too many men forward for a free-kick and when it came back to Mark Noble he lazily passed straight to N'Golo Kante instead of Robert Snodgrass.

Chelsea exploded up the pitch: Kante found Hazard, breaking through the middle. He passed to Pedro, who first-timed the ball back into Hazard's path. His first touch wrong-footed Darren Randolph, then he slotted the ball into the net.

It was Chelsea's first real attack but that was all they needed. They nearly scored with their second attack too, another Hazard break. His pass was just behind Diego Costa, and it took Aaron Cresswell to block from Moses and Randolph to save from Pedro before the danger was cleared.

What West Ham needed in the second half was control and focus. What they got was sloppiness that gifted Chelsea a second goal.

They gave away a corner which Cesc Fabregas clipped into the box. Pedro Obiang touched the ball on at the near post and it flew across goal to Costa, inexplicably unmarked, drifting away from Winston Reid. He just had to cushion the ball into the goal off his thigh.

With the last real attack, deep into added time, West Ham pulled a goal back out of nothing, the ball breaking to Lanzini who put it in the opposite bottom corner, giving the scoreline a sense of closeness the game did not justify.

West Ham: Randolph, Kouyaté, Fonte, Reid (Byram 64), Cresswell, Noble (Fernandes 77), Obiang, Lanzini, Feghouli (Ayew 64), Carroll, Snodgrass. Subs not used: Adrián, Collins, Masuaku, Calleri

Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill, Moses (Zouma 76), Fàbregas, Kanté, Alonso, Pedro (Matic 65), Diego Costa, Hazard (Willian 75). Subs not used: Begovic, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Terry

Man of the match: Hazard

Referee: Andre Marriner (Birmingham).

Belfast Telegraph


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