Chelsea survived a late scare to come from behind and earn a 2-1 victory at home to West Ham on Saturday afternoon.
For much of the contest, West Ham lived up to Thomas Tuchel’s pre-match assessment of the visitors who showed their capacity to “dig in and defend deep with a lot of discipline”. Chelsea’s painfully ponderous passing exclusively in front of West Ham’s claret and blue block didn’t threaten to tease their opponents open.
It took until the 27th minute for either team to attempt a single shot in anger.
West Ham emerged from the interval with more purpose than their listless hosts and the Hammers took the lead via another avenue Chelsea’s manager had highlighted before kick-off; set pieces.
Edouard Mendy unconvincingly patted a corner kick to the feet of Declan Rice at the back post. West Ham’s skipper fired the ball across the six-yard box for Michail Antonio to tap in, sending the ball into a net which already contained West Ham’s Thilo Kehrer on top of the Chelsea duo of Marc Cucurella and Wesley Fofana, all entangled amid the set-piece scramble after an hour.
Chelsea were belatedly sparked into life by that concession and aided by the raft of substitutes Tuchel tossed onto the pitch. Armando Broja almost benefitted from a rare lapse among West Ham’s rearguard as Mason Mount began to collect the ball between the lines.
Ben Chilwell ultimately hauled Chelsea level in the 76th minute with a goal that wasn’t much more aesthetically pleasing than Antonio’s opener.
Darting between Vladimir Coufal and Kehrer, Thiago Silva’s pass span off Chilwell’s oiled hair. The substitute was quickest to react, poking the ball between Lukasz Fabianski’s legs from a tight angle.
Chilwell turned provider in the 88th minute, teeing up another substitute, Kai Havertz, for what would prove to be the winning goal.
However, the German’s strike was only the start of a frantic conclusion as Maxwel Cornet had the ball in the net two minutes later. The Ivory Coast international had already hit the post in his brief cameo but was denied a last-gasp equaliser by VAR, which deemed his contact on Mendy too forceful while he snaffled up the goalkeeper’s parry.
GK: Edouard Mendy – 3/10 – Far too weak when dealing with West Ham’s set piece.
CB: Wesley Fofana – 6/10 – Largely solid on his debut but didn’t cover himself in glory in the events surrounding the goal.
CB: Thiago Silva – 7/10 – Aware he couldn’t get the better of Michail Antonio physically, Silva lured the strong forward into a flurry of fouls.
CB: Kalidou Koulibaly – 5/10 – Invariably rolled the ball sideways, scarcely offering the same surge Antonio Rudiger provided.
RWB: Reece James – 6/10 – Chelsea’s brightest spark, regularly beating Pablo Fornals out wide.
CM: Conor Gallagher – 4/10 – Charging around with energy but little direction.
CM: Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 4/10 – Picked up a very early yellow card and was a tad fortunate not to receive another booking in the first half when his forearm caught Antonio in the face.
CM: Mateo Kovacic – 5/10 – Struggled to exert an influence on proceedings.
LWB: Marc Cucurella – 5/10 – Skirted around the fringes of the contest.
ST: Christian Pulisic – 4/10 – Constantly buzzing around the front line offering himself as a forward passing option but rarely did anything other than pop it straight back, gaining no ground.
ST: Raheem Sterling – 5/10 – Roaming around in search of the ball, Sterling didn’t lack any effort but struggled to provide much end product.
SUB: Armando Broja (60′ for Gallagher) – 6/10 – Caused a nuisance as soon as he came on.
SUB: Mason Mount (60′ for Pulisic) – 5/10
SUB: Ben Chilwell (72′ for Cucurella) – 7/10 – Injected a glut of incision by making runs off the ball which troubled the visitors.
SUB: Kai Havertz (72′ for Kovacic) – 5/10
SUB: Jorginho (83′ for Loftus-Cheek) – N/A
Manager: Thomas Tuchel – 7/10 – The German knew the threats and frustrations West Ham posed but failed to set his team up to deal with them. Fortunately, his substitutions made the difference.
GK: Lukasz Fabianski – 4/10 – Not entirely impressive to be beaten from a tight angle with a nutmeg.
RB: Vladimir Coufal – 6/10 – Snuffed out Cucurella’s threat going forward but rarely crept out of his own half himself.
CB: Thilo Kehrer – 6/10 – Undid a lot of his proactive defensive work by timidly ducking out of the header which led to Chilwell’s equaliser.
CB: Kurt Zouma – 6/10 – Almost undermined a solid display through a piece of miscommunication with Fabianski.
LB: Emerson – 6/10 – Returning to Stamford Bridge, the former Chelsea player showed more discipline than was ever called upon him while stripped in blue.
CM: Declan Rice – 7/10 – Thriving amid the backs-against-the-wall approach, leading sporadic surges forward as well as playing his role in the goal.
CM: Tomas Soucek – 7/10 – Produced a number of crucial, defensive – often aerial – interventions.
AM: Lucas Paqueta – 5/10 – On his full Premier League debut, Paqueta was anonymous in the first half but grew into the game.
RW: Jarrod Bowen – 5/10 – Given precious few chances to venture forward.
ST: Michail Antonio – 6/10 – Clumsily gave away too many fouls against the canny Silva but was in the right place at the right time in a chaotic penalty area.
LW: Pablo Fornals – 5/10 – Dropping so deep he was alongside Emerson for large swathes of the match but struggled up against James.
SUB: Said Benrahma (74′ for Antonio) – N/A
SUB: Angelo Ogbonna (83′ for Paqueta) – N/A
SUB: Maxwel Cornet (86′ for Fornals) – 5/10 – Came so close to firing West Ham ahead with his first touch and was unlucky to be denied by VAR.
Manager: David Moyes – 5/10 – His well-worn game plan game so close to eeking out a point.