David Hautzig's Match Report
Chelsea 0, West Ham 1. A Win Built By Hard Work.
The big question today was whether it would be four on the spin. No, not four losses. That was foregone conclusion as far as I was concerned. It was whether we would go down by three goals again before the final whistle and thus allow me to get on with my life. I made that promise not only to myself, but to my family. Even the cat knew if things went as badly as expected playtime and treats would be on offer. Martin in between the pipes did nothing other than take Roberto out of the circular firing squad that is West Ham. Masuaku on the bench? OK. Fine. Haller dropped? Well, nobody should be undroppable. Antonio starting on cold day, coming off a hamstring injury, with a history of hamstring injuries and likely as much scar tissue in his leg as muscle. Our last win at Stamford Bridge was with DiCanio and Defoe up front. What could possibly go wrong? Apparently nothing.
Shameless plug time!!! I will try to follow the great Nigel Kahn as a guest on the American West Ham YouTube Channel tomorrow at 7pm GMT, 2pm EST. We are getting our first full throttle snow storm of the year, so I’ll bundle up in my house and share the joy. http://YouTube.com/c/americanhammerstv
So the way I set myself up is with my IPad on my lap for typing, with my IPhone next to me launched to the FotMob app for help with lineup stuff. Because I’m using a stream, I’m usually a minute or so behind the actual action. The app provides goal alerts, so I’m always torn between getting the information ASAP and watching the match as “live” as I can. In the end, I left the app as is and waited for the horror to unfold. And that horror came close in the second minute when Emerson broke down the left and sent the ball into the box for Pedro, but his shot was deflected before we could start yelling at Martin.
West Ham went on the attack in the 6th minute, and to be fair it was as effective as anything we have seen in over a month. Antonio broke into the box and got on the end of a good cross from Cresswell, but he couldn’t square up to the pass and his side foot attempt under pressure went over the bar. A minute later my national pride was challenged…OK, that’s nonsense…when Pulisic sent a low shot right at Martin. The former Millwall man gathered it up on the second attempt. Pulisic was at it again moments later when he got on the end of a cross from James, but his looping header went over the bar.
Ten minutes in, no goals conceded! COYI!
I saw a chart the other day, provided by my mate John Bucci of Moore Than Just A Podcast, on the WhatsApp group I’m part of showing the total expenditure on defenders during the current regime. 72.10 million pounds. That’s about 7 million per season, but if you take out Diop that average goes waaaaay down. So when crosses go in and nobody looks even remotely aware of what they are supposed to do, keep that in mind. Like when Chelsea won a corner after a crazy deflection off Cresswell. The delivery was found by Zouma right in front of Martin, almost totally unmarked. Lucky for the visitors Zouma’s header went wide.
Despite all of the dominance from Chelsea, it was West Ham who came the closest to opening the scoring in the 24th minute. Anderson fed the ball to Snodgrass on the right, who sent a very fine cross into the box. Antonio timed his run well, and met the ball with power. Kepa was equal to the task and made a great save with his left hand.
Chelsea kept chipping away at the West Ham defense, winning a few corners in quick succession. But while not looking particularly strong, they looked at least stable. Thank heavens for small favors. After recent calamities, just seeing the basics of functional football was somewhat comforting. With one exception. Anderson. His lackadaisical nature has started to wear very thin. Yes, he has skill and can do wonderful things. But he has looked more like an expensive mistake than a skillful player.
Martin made his first saves of the match in the 43rd minute when Kovacic sent a low shot from just outside the eighteen yard box. Giroud looked offside, so when he attacked the rebound I expected a flag. Maybe VAR would have done the job. Regardless, Martin got his hand on the second attempt from the French Giant and dove on the ball to end the Chelsea threat.
I really, really want to like Fornals. When we signed him I was excited. I know performing well in an Under 23 competition means you played well against other kids. The Premier League is made up mostly of men. But from my point of view, once he starts trusting his instinct instead thinking he has to follow all instructions he might come good. Like in added time when Anderson fed him the ball and galloped down the right. Instead of running, or sending the ball into the run of his teammate, he stopped. He turned around, and then passed the ball back to his defense. Argh!!!!
The final moments of the first half almost ended the decent work done by West Ham all half. James sent a cross into the box. Ogbonna made a slight deflection that likely changed the flight of the ball enough for Giroud to mistime his run. The ball bounced to the far post where Pulisic just missed it.
West Ham 0
In the opening moments of the second half, when my phone dinged indicating a goal I obviously assumed the worst. So when I saw West Ham break, I thought maybe…just maybe…we were on top. Cresswell overlapped with Fornals and received the ball in the Chelsea eighteen yard box. He cut to his right and sent a low, curling shot past Kepa.
West Ham 1
Chelsea looked to recover from the shock of falling behind and won a corner after a very fine tackle by Fredericks in the 57th minute. But West Ham worked well collectively and the ball bounced meekly out for a goal kick right after the delivery. Moments later it was West Ham that won a corner when Rice went on a rare run forward down the left. And it would have been a second goal for The Hammers had Kepa not made a great save off of Balbuena’s header. Seconds later West Ham had another great chance for a second when Antonio got on the ball right in front of Kepa but couldn’t find his shooting boots and Kepa smothered the ball.
West Ham won a corner in the 67th minute, just as I was arguing with Nigel and Sean about my negativity. I said I still didn’t see us getting anything out of it, so when the ball went into the back of the net I thought my argument was lost. But despite the fine work by Snodgrass getting the cross into Antonio, VAR correctly ruled the ball went off his arm before going off the post and into the back of the net. Despite having far more clear chances through 70 minutes than Chelsea, my negativity returned in full force.
In the 75th minute, the television showed a gassed Antonio. I hoped Pellegrini would not risk him, and thankfully he read the tea leaves properly and inserted Haller for the spent Englishman. Yarmolenko also entered the fray in exchange for Anderson. Said a lot about the Brazilian that I hadn’t noticed he was gone and had to look it up.
Chelsea had an opportunity in the 80th minute when second half substitute Willian broke down the right and sent a low cross into the box. But in another instance of collective defense, West Ham bodies threw themselves where they needed to be and the ball was jettisoned away from danger. For the moment.
West Ham got very sloppy late in the second half, giving the ball away when a minute of possession would have been worth its weight in gold. Chelsea won a corner, but the delivery was completely over hit. The Hammers came back down and tried the possession thing again, only to have Yarmolenko give the ball away, get a yellow card, and get hurt. Not a good hat trick.
Chelsea had a tremendous chance to even the match in the 89th minute when Kante fed Pulisic on the right with a little touch pass. But with space and time, the American Wunderkind shot wide. Seconds later Fredericks gave up a free kick right outside the eighteen yard box. West Ham handled the initial free kick, but the ball floated back into the box. Martin came to catch it, and Hudson-Odoi came to head it. The two met with a thud, the ball went out, and Martin went down. Visions, or should I say nightmares of Roberto danced in my cerebral cortex.
West Ham won a goal kick in the final seconds after Chelsea was flagged for offside. When Snodgrass won a throw deep in the Chelsea half, I thought that might be enough. And despite Chelsea winning the ball back, Moss blew the final whistle.
West Ham 1
Well now. Talk about putting a dent in my writing plans. I had all sorts of narratives in my head, mostly about the board. Those won’t change in the short or long term. But today we deserved the three points. It was Kepa that kept the score at 0-1. Martin had very little to do, which spoke volumes of the work done by Ogbonna and Balbuena in the middle. But the vision I will remember most was that of Martin in tears at the final whistle. This was his moment to feel like a true Premier League goalkeeper. He may never have another day like it, and that might be OK for him. But unless he loses a leg to a shark attack or something, he stays in between the pipes until Fabianski is back.
We can enjoy life at least until Wednesday.