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Premier League
Saturday, 24th October 2015

West Ham United 2
Chelsea 1

by Gordon Thrower


Good 2, Evil 1.

I think if you look up the word “eventful” in a dictionary of euphemisms you’ll probably find a video of this match in the definitions bit, assuming of course that it’s some sort of whizzy internet type of dictionary that does that sort of thing.

Bit of a rush job for me pre-match this one – a pre-arranged meet with author and journalist Brian Williams in the Denmark took an eternity – let’s just say bar service wasn’t at its best. By way of a gratuitous plug, Brian’s book “Nearly Reach The Sky” is a damned good read so go out and buy it so the poor fellah can afford to have his pre-match pint somewhere with better bar service!

Anyhow by the time I got to the ground the teams had already been announced. In the end there was only one change to the Palace starting XI, that being the introduction to the starting line-up of Zarate who came in for the ineligible Moses leaving us lining up thusly: Adrian, Jenkinson, Cresswell, Tomkins, Collins, Noble, Kouyate, Lanzini, Payet, Zarate, Sakho.

After an early exchange that saw Payet stick a sighter from promising distance into the crowd, the first decent chance went to the visitors as a flick over the top caught us square. Costa put the ball high into the Bobby Moore with a wallop of such unsophistication only the lack of a soundtrack containing the words “ave it” prevents it from being used in a beer advert. At the moment.

Payet and Lanzini were combining well and a neat run and layoff from the latter on the quarter hour saw the former upended by Fabregas about 30 yards out. Payet’s resulting free-kick was dipping under but was turned over by Begdovic. A good save but one he’d have expected himself to make. However, the respite for the Pensioners was brief.

Payet took the corner himself and, in truth, it wasn’t the greatest of corners. However Ramires and Costa between them made a pig’s ear out of the clearance and the ball fell to Zarate whose first-time half-volley from the edge of the box gave Begovic no chance. A fine finish from a player who couldn’t get into QPR’s team last season, never mind ours!

We gave away a slightly soft corner on the half-hour as Jenkinson’s attempt to play the ball back to Adrian picked up some pace off the wet pitch and gave the ‘keeper little chance of keeping it in play. Fabregas’s corner looked dangerous but Adrian punched clear in spectacular style. A neat backheel from Payet nearly caught the visitors out on the break but Kouyate slightly overhit the return pass which Payet would have needed a motorbike to catch up with. Which was a shame as the move deserved better.

When you play Chelsea you’ll never be a few moments away from a dive and seeing his loose ball intercepted by Collins, Ramires threw himself up into the air in central position about 20 yards out. Tomkins – who was a good three feet away – was adjudged to have fouled as it dawned on them that it was going to take a set piece for them to score. Willlian’s free-kick was well saved down to his right by Adrian.

We survived a scare on 35 minutes. Collins blocked an attempted cross from blocked by Lanzini who seemed to get in a muddle with Adrian before hacking the ball to safety. Kouyate picked the ball up and beat a couple of players, his storming run coming to an unceremonious end ten yards into the Chelsea half when Matic’s cynical tug-back brought him down. It earned Matic a deserved yellow – there were enough covering defenders and it was far enough out not to qualify as “Denial of Obvious Goalscoring Opportunity” as the laws of the game describe it.

It was amusing to see the Chelsea players appeal for the goal – it’s almost as if they were claiming that the buzzer machine thing was somehow part of the conspiracy against them that they keep going on about. I’ve now seen it again and boy it was close but hey Chelsea – when they start awarding 99.98% of a goal we’ll get back to you.

Meanwile, back on planet Earth, Payet’s delivery from the free-kick was met by Collins but although Ginge’s header had power, it lacked direction enough to trouble Begovic.
We ought to have made it 2-0 with 7 minutes left of the half. Noble headed a loose ball on to Payet whose first time backheel into the path of Lanzini was sublime. Maybe Lanzini had a bit too much time but Begovic stood up and the Argentine’s attempted dink cleared the bar. Another move that deserved better than the end it got.

Not enough incident for you in the half? Well things were to get even madder. Noble’s loose pass and subsequent failure to make a recovery tackle saw the visitors break but Willian delayed the pass that would have set Fabregas up and, as later TV stuff showed Fabregas had a leg that had strayed offside.

One thing that all the subsequent hand-wringing from their muppet support fails to acknowledge is the fact that Adrian made no attempt to save the ball having heard the whistle – even had the officials applied their usual principle of suspending the laws in favour of Chelsea there was every chance that the ‘keeper might have saved the shot. He phrase “sit down shut up” leaps to mind.

Not mad enough for you? Sakho did Matic like the proverbial kipper (I must look up the origin of that phrase one day) out on the touchline. Matic’s only reply was to body-check Sakho into touch. The only people who didn’t think it was a second yellow were the sort of people who would support Chelsea anyway.

Matic didn’t have a leg to stand on, not that stopped five of their players surrounding the ref trying to persuade him otherwise. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to see Jon Moss – acknowledged even within the world of refereeing as one of the less capable officials in the so-called select group – actually having the balls to apply the laws of the game in the face of the usual intimidation from that most two-bob of clubs.

Chelsea had completely lost the plot. Fabregas got a yellow for pointing out that they had already paid for the title or something and Costa also incurred the wrath of the officials, presumably the “don’t you know who we are” card had been played by this time. Almost unnoticed, the 4th official raised the board for an extra two minutes. Payet’s free-kick came to naught thanks to an offside flag at which point one of the Chelsea coaches decided to have a pop and, following intervention from the 4th official he was sent to the stands. Amongst all the confusion I thought it was Mourinho who had been dismissed but in the event I was just being a bit premature – which is unusual for me.

Ok. Rest. Breathe, Relax.

Half Time: West Ham United 1 Chelsea 0


The half time interval saw the introduction of a number of former players – an event which reminded me of the time we played Chelsea at their place a few years back and Bobby Tambling who at was their top scorer (and still is if you take dodgy penalties and deflections out of the equation) was paraded around the ground in front of a home support – none of whom knew who he was. Vick Keeble looked particularly good for 85 from my vantage point and it was good to see Pat Holland who these days is presumably being very careful before drinking any unidentified liquids (ask your dad).

Keith Robson was there too – I can still hear the groan of disappointment as he overran that ball in the ’76 Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final. I’m also still slightly deaf as a result of the subsequent roar as we realised that it had all been part of a masterplan to stick a beaut into the top corner. Marvellous stuff.

Enough of all our yesterdays. The second half started with some sort of confusion as it transpired that, although Mourinho had not been banished to the stands at the end of the first half, something had gone on in the interval that saw him sent off anyway. Even the half time interval had incident in this one.

We ought to have been a bit more in their faces after the break rather than maintaining the counter-attacking game we’d employed when it had been eleven a side. For the first 15 minutes of the second half we didn’t really change things to take into account the extra man and it cost us.

Ten minutes into the second half Tomkins gave away a corner. Zouma caused confusion and Cahill buried the loose ball. At which point we realised Chelsea had actually sold some away tickets after all.

The goal served as a wake-up call and, much as we had done against Palace a week earlier, we started to remember the basics of playing against ten – switch it about, use the width you get from the extra man, that sort of thing. Payet and Cresswell in particular were looking promising down the left. Payet got down to the by-line and pulled one back. Noble’s cushioned header set up Zarate buthis effort into the ground was saved comfortably by Begovic.

Of course, this being Chelsea we’re talking about, we saw the usual attempts to even up the score in playing numbers – watching players rolling around in agony clutching their faces is actually quite funny after a while as long as the referee doesn’t fall for it. Mind you the joke wore a bit thin and one did wonder if there had been some amnesty on the yellow cards that are supposed to accompany acts of “simulation” designed to try to get an opponent sent off. All rather unedifying but just the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from such opponents.

With about 20 minutes left Carroll replaced Zarate to provide something different to the attack as it started to become clear that, without set pieces, our opponents had little to offer. In fact the slightest pressure was making them look a bit wobbly with Begovic’s touch letting him down from a back-pass forcing the ‘keeper into giving away a panicky corner with Sakho lurking.

From the corner Begovic lumped it forward to Hazard who, at thetime the ball was played, had been five yards in our half offside. Hazard pulled the ball back to Ramires who scuffed the shot into the hands of Adrian who immediately set up another attack. I’m struggling to remember much else from them in open play.

We started turning the screw. Payet’s ball with the outside of the boot was dummied by Lanzini allowing Cresswell to get down the left. Cresswell found Payet who mis-hit his pass which was cleared in less than convincing fashion by the defence. In no mood to relieve the pressure, Noble cleverly laid the ball off first time out to Cresswell who looked up and found Carroll with a cross that had “inviting” written all over it. It was an invitation that Carroll accepted with aplomb, his header going back across into the net at the far post. Marvellous header that was a goal from the moment the ball left Cresswell’s boot.

Willian tried a speculative effort straight from the restart but much as everyone who tries that one on a Sunday morning does he ended up just looking a bit desperate and silly. Obiang replaced Lanzini with about ten left and the board went up adding on a slightly generous four minutes – something that was eked out into a more baffling six minutes by the end.

As the stoppage was being announced, Sakho had a dim moment. Trying to dribble the ball out of defence was bad idea no.1. Losing it to Willian was bad idea no.2 and then fouling the player – well you get the idea. Before the free-kick could be taken the defence was bolstered by the arrival of Ogbonna who replaced the skipper. Thankfully the free-kick was wasted and Carroll fed Payet who was scythed down to earn Mikel yet another yellow and that was pretty much yer lot for a cracking game of football.

Full Time: West Ham United 2 Chelsea 1


Mourinho, as you’ll be aware by now, didn’t bother to show his face after the game – though it would be too much to hope that his absence owed anything to shame. A look around the Chelsea boards is educational - apparently the goal machine was fixed, offside goals should be allowed (which, remember, is how they beat us last season) and their precious players should be allowed at least five yellow cards offences before any officials get the chance to speak to them.

The fact is that we deservedly beat a side that simply isn’t very good at the moment and which, even when playing well, has always relied on the shortcomings of match officials to get them over the line. Every one of the decisions they’ll be moaning about this weekend was correct and, if one didn’t know better, one might almost think that Abrahamovic’s standing order to PGMOL might have not gone through properly this month!

Meanwhile we’ll carry on in the upper reaches of the table and I resolve to not take our position too seriously for as long as it lasts as it’s funnier that way. Now does anyone know how easy Barcelona is to reach via Eurostar only my knee’s been playing up of late and I prefer the legroom on the train to those budget airlines...



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Player Ratings

Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo
A couple of good clearances from corners and was always quick to turn defence into attack.


Carl Jenkinson
Continues to improve after a shaky start to the season.


Aaron Cresswell
Excellent game both in defence and in attack. In front of Hodgson, who will still prefer Luke Shaw even though he’s out for the season.


James Collins
Storming performance from Ginge who, lest we forget, is nominally our fourth choice centre-back, although that may not be the case going forward. Seemed to be having as much fun on the pitch as we were having off it.


James Tomkins
With Collins he had an outstanding afternoon keeping Costa very quiet. In front of Hodgson, who will still prefer Smalling even though he’s not very good.


Cheikhou Kouyate
Got the sponsors’ MOTM in what was a difficult week for MOTM choices. Am I allowed more than one MOTM? If so he’s one of them.


Mark Noble
A couple of slack moments in giving the ball away might have taken the gloss from an otherwise simple but solid performance. However, on review I’ve marked him up a notch for his interventions on a number of occasions which stopped us from being dragged down to their level disciplinary-wise.


Mauro Zarate
Looks good when he starts – especially when, as this week, he resists the urge to do it all on his own and channels his talents towards the team effort. Fine goal as well and Moses may have a job to get back in next week...


Manuel Lanzini
Lanzini and Payet alongside each other? That purring noise you can hear is coming from me. Worked damned hard off the ball as well, though that’s not what catches the eye.


Dimitri Payet
Sssh! People are beginning to notice. The source of much of what was good going forward again and, as ever, a joy to watch. My other MOTM.


Diafra Sakho
His contribution was not one that caught the eye but his hard running gave both full-backs an out ball down the lines and his hard work and chasing kept the Chelsea defence on their toes.


Substitutes


Andy Carroll
(Replaced Zarate, 69) Even before the goal Chelsea were struggling to cope with him winning the ball and he held it up well throughout his afternoon. Marvellous header for the goal.


Padro Obiang
(Replaced Lanzini, 82) A short cameo saw him make a couple of defensive interventions.


Angelo Ogbonna
(Replaced Noble, 90+1) Just on for stoppage time at the end.


Darren Randolph
Did not play.


Michael Antonio
Did not play.


Enner Valencia
Did not play.


Nikica Jelavic
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: Jonathan Moss.

Attendance: 34,977.

Man of the Match: Cheikhou Kouyate.

West Ham United

Adrian San Miguel Del Castillo, Carl Jenkinson, Aaron Cresswell, James Collins, James Tomkins, Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Mauro Zarate, Manuel Lanzini, Dimitri Payet, Diafra Sakho.

Goals: Mauro Zarate 17 Andy Carroll 79                .

Booked: Cheikhou Kouyate 74          .

Sent off: None.

Chelsea

Asmir Begovic, Kurt Zouma, Gary Cahill, John Terry, Cesar Azpilicueta, Ramires, Nemanja Matic, Willian, Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa.

Substitutes: John Obi Mikel (Cesc Fabregas 45), Falcao (Ramires 81), Baba Rahman (Azpilicueta 86).

Subs not used: Oscar, Bertrand Traore, Marco Amelia, Ruben Loftus-Cheek .

Goals: Gary Cahill (44).

Booked: Cesar Azpilicueta (24), Nemanja Matic (35), Diego Costa (45), Cesc Fabregas (45), Willian (82), John Obi Mikel (90+4).

Sent Off: Nemanja Matic (44).

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: Cheikhou Kouyate