Staunch West Ham United side sunk by Eden Hazard wizardry.
One definite we can take from the game is that Eden Hazard is one of the most gifted players in the world, and West Ham, for all their admirable defensive work, simply could not stop him.
The hosts dominated the opening exchanges on Monday night, picking up from where they have left off five days ago. But West Ham seemed comfortable enough chasing the ball down and limiting Sarri’s men to a few half chances. The first coming from left-back Emerson’s freekick, which crept wide of the near post, while Kante, not famed for his offensive work, ballooned his shot over from 20 yards out. Cesar Azpilicueta could have created the opening goal if it wasn’t for an immense piece of last-minute defending from Balbuena. It was going to take something special to open this game up, and special is what we got.
Eden Hazard, taking matters in his own hands (or feet), collected the ball from 45 yards out and committed himself forwards in trademark style; first around Mark Noble, who was perhaps the most fortunate of the defenders because he got to watch the goal unfold then Angelo Ogbonna and Fabian Balbuena before poking home past Lukasz Fabianski in emphatic style.
Higuain was then twice denied by the excellent work of Fabianski and Ryan Fredericks, the latter putting in a superb block from close range.
The Hammers showed a little more attacking impetus after the break as Manuel Lanzini forced a save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, while Aaron Cresswell also came close with a sweetly struck half volley.
We wouldn’t go as far to say it was a comprehensive second-half performance from Chelsea, but they got their security goal in the last minute when Hazard found the bottom left corner from Barkley’s cross.
It was a game of two halves from our perspective. Yes, West Ham’s attackers may have come alive in the final 45 minutes, but their efforts in the first left a lot to be desired. The defensive unit, on the other hand, stayed pretty consistent throughout, and no one more than recent returnee Fabian Balbuena.
The former Corinthians man, who arrived for a nominal £4 million in the summer (as per Transfermarkt), had been in immense form before sustaining an injury late last year. And though West Ham conceded twice last night – both goals to a very special player – there were very promising signs that he was back to his best, making one goal-saving block.
West Ham fans, did the Chelsea performance reveal how much you’re missing the Balbuena-Diop partnership? Let us know in the comments below..
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