After the mid-week clash with Manchester United we (I) here at IndirectKicks noted that West Ham was in the middle of a brutal stretch of matches (still true) and intimated that they would be sliding down out of the top half of the table. We (I) was wr….wro…maybe a bit hasty in that evaluation.
Chelsea made the 11 mile trip to Boleyn Ground to take on the Hammers and had to be looking for 3 points on the road, and it appeared during the first half that they’d be returning home with said points. Chelsea were the aggressors throughout the opening half and frankly West Ham looked tired from their futile mid-week effort against United where they played extremely hard and well.
Chelsea started putting pressure on early when Hazard delivered into the box at the 7 minute mark but Reid was able to clear it away. West Ham was able keep the ball out of the net until Torres took a ball deep on the right side of the goal, glanced over his shoulder to see Mata breaking right down the middle of the penalty area, and delivered a perfect pass for his countryman to put into the bottom left corner of the net. 13 minutes in and it looked like Chelsea was on its way.
Mata almost had his second in the 19th minute when Hazard was fouled just outside the box. Mata took the free kick and delivered a beauty…which hit the post and bounded away. In the 22nd minute both Azpilicueta and Hazard should have put away shots but O’Brien and Demel respectively made great clearances. The half ended 1-nil, but it should have been 3-nil and the ones that got away would come back to haunt Chelsea in the second half.
Allardyce made two changes to start the second half, Diame for O’Neil and Taylor for Tomkins. The changes brought immediate returns for the Hammers as the energy and intensity increase was palpable. And it didn’t take long for Taylor to make his presence felt. He played a great cross into the box in the 49th minute that Cahill was lucky to clear for a corner. Taylor took the corner and Diame shot from about 12 yards out – but Cahill was just able to block. At this point Chelsea looked a bit shell-shocked and had to be wondering where the passive Hammers of the first 45′ went.
West Ham finally got the equalizer in the 63rd minute on a deflected cross in from Matt Jarvis. As the ball looped into the box, Carlton Cole was blocked out by Ivanovic as Cole fought for position, so he basically he just crawled over Ivanovic’s back and headed the ball into the small space at the near post.
For the next 20 minutes West Ham kept the pressure on and Chelsea did not respond well. Benitez was at a bit of a disadvantage in regards to his options in defense with Luiz’s suspension, and the Hammers took advantage of that in the second half. As I was watching I kept thinking that West Ham was bound to come up with a second goal as they were the definite aggressors in the second half, and sure enough in the 86th minute Diame buried a wonderful pass from Carlton Cole. West Ham 2, Chelsea 1. Chelsea really did look lost, confused, and unorganized. There was still time to try and put in an equalizer, but they played with purposeless urgency in the final minutes.
The sign showing 4 minutes of extra time was still in the fourth official’s hands when Ashley Cole assisted on West Ham’s third goal. His poor pass towards the middle of the field was intercepted by Maiga, who played in Taylor. Taylor’s shot was well saved by Cech, though the rebound went only as far as Maiga who emphatically squashed Chelsea’s hopes.
It was a well earned 3 points from West Ham that moved them up to 7th on the table for the time being. Benitez, having already proved his managerial incompetence during the majority of his nearly six years at Liverpool, is going to have to come up with some answers for both the media and some very disgruntled fans for his results so far…two draws and one defeat. There were already some announcers mentioning that it was not a matter of IF Benitez would go…but when. Considering his employer and the mood of the Chelsea fans after the Di Matteo dismissal, that sacking could come sooner rather than later.