West Ham fail to heed Hazard warning as Chelsea star steals the show
PUBLISHED: 13:37 09 April 2019 | UPDATED: 13:37 09 April 2019
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did Hammers second-half fight-back deserve some reward?
West Ham seem to have taken a lot of stick for this performance at Stamford Bridge on Monday night, but though the first half was awful, overall this was not a bad display.
In the second half, the Hammers showed what they could do against a team full of pace and attacking endeavour.
Manuel Lanzini had a shot well saved, Marko Arnautovic was a thorn in Chelsea’s side and also went close, while Felipe Anderson and Aaron Cresswell had good efforts.
By the end, before the Blues scored their second goal, it was them clinging on and under pressure to the extreme that keeper Kepa was booked for time wasting.
The difference in the end was the skill of Eden Hazard. Sometimes you just have to applaud a goal from the opposition and this was one of those occasions.
“With a player with the quality of Hazard, you know he can make different things,” said manager Manuel Pellegrini.
“Going between four players is not easy, so maybe we could have been more aggressive, but that was our attitude in the first 45 minutes in the way we defended that goal and the way we played.”
The Hammers have been castigated for letting Hazard through, but like with Lionel Messi or Diego Maradona, sometimes these fleet-footed dribblers are difficult to stop.
It was a case of another 45 minutes when West Ham simply weren’t at the races and it has happened with alarming regularity this season.
Lanzini, Anderson, Javier Hernandez and Arnautovic on the wing were totally ineffective and wasteful on the ball and the Hammers did well to restrict Chelsea to just that Hazard goal by the break.
“I think the difference was in the first 45 minutes, that we didn’t start the game with the pace that you need to play against Chelsea,” added Pellegrini, but surely the players should have known that going into this one.
It took a reshuffle from Pellegrini to turn things round in the second half. Off was ‘Chicharito’ with ‘Arnie’ going up top, while Robert Snodgrass came off the bench.
It worked and with a little luck, West Ham could have got something out of this game.
“We improved a lot in the second half,” said Pellegrini. “We had opportunities and we could have drawn the game, but finally they scored the second goal.
“We changed a lot of things, in the pace we played and the part of the pitch we played in too. We played forward and not so close to our box, and we had the chances.”
They did. Lanzini’s effort was blocked by Kepa, while Arnautovic saw one effort blocked by the body of a defender and a header deflected just wide.
Anderson cut inside and curled in a shot which was saved; Cresswell’s rasping drive arrowed wide, while there was even a shout for a penalty when Snodgrass was grounded.
But in the end the Hammers had left themselves with too much to do again. It is tough enough playing in the Premier League without having to constantly come from behind.
At the end of the day it didn’t matter that much. West Ham are not going down and they are almost certainly not going to finish seventh.
But it is frustrating to know that they can live with these top sides, if only they could apply themselves for the whole 90 minutes.