Chelsea suffer shock West Ham defeat as David Moyes hands Man Utd boost in top four race
Chelsea suffered a major blow in their hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League with defeat to West Ham, who in turn boosted their hopes of staying in the Premier League with a big three points.
It is not often while performing its ill-conceived football duties that the London Stadium has been accused of being much noisier than expected. But the giant roar from 11 players, eight more on the bench, the assembled West Ham staff and possibly a cheer or two from the boardroom rang round the cavernous bowl like never before.
It even eclipsed the excited yelp that had greeted Andriy Yarmolenko’s late winner – the volume of that cry perhaps muted by the knowledge that there were still four minutes remaining on the clock.
But it was no more than West Ham deserved and rewarded too the patience of all the neutrals at home who have sat resolutely through some behind-closed-doors horror shows in anticipation of this genuine exhibition of everything the Premier League can offer.
On the back of five successive wins since lockdown, Chelsea were expected to breeze through this and move another step closer to Champions League qualification.
By contrast, West Ham had not even scored a goal – at least not one in the right end – for 123 days.
Add to that the fiery sense of injustice when VAR disallowed a potential West Ham opener minutes before rubber stamping a Chelsea penalty, and you have to scratch your head to wonder just how Chelsea’s defence contrived to be bad enough actually to lose this with so much going for them.
At best they had ridden their luck because Christian Pulisic refuses to ride a challenge.
He was already going to ground when Issa Diop clattered into him just before half-time in the corner of the penalty area and was not going to ignore the invitation to tumble over Declan Rice’s naively outstretched leg just outside the box in the 72 minute.
Technically, they were both fouls and rightly punished. Willian – one of the few Chelsea players on their game – proved just as deadly from 25 yards as he had been from 12.
West Ham’s sense of injustice for the first award though was fired by having a goal disallowed moments before.
Tomas Soucek, who put the ball into his own net at Tottenham last week, bundled the ball in over the body of Michail Antonio, but while the ball did not touch the West Ham striker, he was deemed to be blocking the line of sight of Kepa Arrizabalaga while in an offside position.
Even then, West Ham scrambled back on level terms before the break,
Antonio Rudiger summed up the off night Chelsea were having when he needlessly sliced the ball over his own line for a corner in first half injury time.
This time, Jarrod Bowen picked out Soucek directly and his downward header evaded Abraham’s best efforts on the line.
Chelsea’s appalling defending continued into the second half and Antonio was unmarked in the perfect place to put West Ham in front again minutes after the break.
Moyes was drawing on all the experience he had to get West Ham over the line, sending on Jack Wilshere for his first appearance since October.
However, once Chelsea pulled level again, it was the introduction of Yarmolenko for only the second time since December that was to prove more significant.
Antonio did well to hold up a long West Ham clearance before playing a one-two with Pablo Fornals before releasing Yarmolenko on the right.
The Ukrainian cut inside Rudiger all too easily and coolly stroked the ball into the Chelsea net.
Three points, a huge step towards safety. And that mighty yell of relief.
For Chelsea, United – helped by former boss David Moyes here – creep within two points of fourth spot. The top-four race is truly on.