In Benitez’s third game in charge of Chelsea Torres retained his place in the side. Having scored more goals in the Premiership against West Ham than any other side, he would have been optimistic prior to the game commencing.
Chelsea lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1
Both teams started reasonably with neither side clearly in the ascendancy.
As the game began to settle down, the opening goal was created and scored by Juan Mata. Mata was given far too much freedom by a very linear West Ham side in the opening half and the Spaniard duly punished the Hammers in the 12th minute of the game.
Collecting a throw in from Azpilicueta, Mata passed to Moses on the wing before setting off towards the penalty area. Neither Noble or the closer Tomkins matched his run enabling Mata to comfortably move onto Torres cut back to drive the ball home for the opening goal.
It was a common theme in the opening 45minutes as West Ham struggled to adapt to Mata’s movement particularly when he dropped deep and Ramires made surging runs.Chelsea continued to dominate proceedings and carved out a number of scoring opportunities for themselves but the second goal eluded them. The crucial moment in the first half saw Mata have two shots in quick succession, the first being saved by Jaaskelainen whilst the second shot was blocked and cleared for a corner. Had the Hammers trailed 2-0 at half time, it’s unlikely that we would have seen such a rousing second half performance.
Kevin Nolan fouled Petr Cech after 35 minutes. It was a clear barge on the goalkeeper as Nolan was never going to win the ball but the concession of the foul was less important that what it said. Until that point Cech had been relatively trouble free but Nolan fouled the keeper simply as a statement. A reminder that whilst he made have had an easy afternoon until that point, it could change.
The Key Change:- Introduction of Diame
With West Ham playing their third game in just six days, Allardyce decided to rest Diame given his energetic, industrious style within the midfield area. Yet it was clear as half time approached that his qualities were exactly what the Hammers needed. The change was made with Tomkins making way for Diame. The Statistics below provide a glimpse of what Diame brought to the team:-
Diame was only on the field for 45 minutes yet made more tackles than anyone else and was involved in more ground duels than anyone else. His introduction was central to West Ham getting back into the game along with a couple of small changes from Allardyce at half time.
West Ham moved further up the pitch as a unit. Whereas in the first half, West Ham had been passive and defended deep, with Diame in the midfield area pressing opponents, they pushed higher upfield. Secondly, as can partly be seen from the statistics, West Ham were more direct in the second half. Diame only attempted 13 passes compared to the player he replaced, Tomkins, attempting 25 passes. West Ham were moving the ball forward quicker, seeking out Carlton Cole. The power and aggression of Diame enabling them to compete for second balls if Cole was unsuccessful.
West Ham Pressure
An improvement from West Ham was always likely and it arrived as soon as the second half kicked doff. They ball went forward quicker and the Hammers won a number of set pieces which they launched into the Chelsea penalty area. Although these were largely cleared, there was a sense that Chelsea were uncomfortable with this tactic. In total West Ham played 25 crosses into the Chelsea penalty area during the game and from one of them, albeit deflected, the equalising goal arrived.
The determination of Diame and Jarvis on the left, competing for the ball enable West Ham to retain possession. The cross from Nolan was deflected and looped into the air. The ball was in the air for some time and Cech should have claimed it. Expecting his keeper to do so, Ivanovic tried to shield the ball and Cole clambered over the top of him to head home. Probably a foul but it highlighted the indecision within the defence. Was Cech reluctant to come out based upon the earlier challenge from Nolan?
Next Page: Chelsea 2nd Half Chances, The Impact of Benitez and Conclusions (click on Page 2 below or click here to read more.)