Chelsea left it late, earned a penalty, missed it, then – with 24 seconds of normal time remaining – fired home a winner against West Ham, briefly silencing the boisterous away fans, pumped up ahead of their European football adventure. For 95% of Sunday’s match it was a kind of weary stalemate of a derby,
Chelsea left it late, earned a penalty, missed it, then – with 24 seconds of normal time remaining – fired home a winner against West Ham, briefly silencing the boisterous away fans, pumped up ahead of their European football adventure.
For 95% of Sunday’s match it was a kind of weary stalemate of a derby, with Chelsea unable to break down a resolute Irons’ defence, despite hammering on the door until it was creaking on its hinges.
Then everything flashed into life in the dying moments. Craig Dawson made a rash challenge on sub Romelu Lukaku with barely five minutes remaining. Ref Michael Oliver was urged to go across to the side of the pitch to check if it was worthy of a red card, and decided it was.
Dawson trudged off, and the dependable Jorginho, penalty taker extraordinaire, stepped up and took the most pathetic spot kick of his career, rolling the ball tamely to Lukasz Fabianski.
How the West Ham fans crowed. There was still time for another sub (part of a triple change that Thomas Tuchel had made after 76 minutes) Hakim Ziyech to shoot wide.
Then, with 89 minutes and 36 second elapsed, Marcos Alonso – the subject of intense targeted abuse from the Hammers fans – slid the ball across for yet another sub, Christian Pulisic, to fire home for 1-0.
Irons gaffer David Moyes thought his team had done enough (despite saving key personnel for the two-legged Europa League semi-final against Eintracht Frankfurt) to gain a valuable away draw against Chelsea. He and his team plotted and schemed on the touchline, putting on Declan Rice and Manuel Lanzini as second-half subs to try to nick a winner, as well as Jarrod Bowen (main picture, above).
But the gamble of leaving recognised talent, including the vitally important Michail Antonio, on the bench to save them for the home leg against the German side didn’t pay off.
The Blues avoided any risky play during the four minutes of added time, and victory was theirs, making the situation at the top of the table a little brighter after the defeat at the Bridge to Arsenal in midweek.
Next up, Chelsea travel to Manchester United on Thursday night before a reunion with Frank Lampard’s perilously placed Everton team at Goodison next weekend.