West Ham, buoyed by their recent away win at Stoke and their 3-1 victory over Chelsea earlier in the season, went to Stamford Bridge with injuries to key men in their midfield.
The absence once again of Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble and the added loss of Joe Cole who limped off in that win at Stoke saw Gary O’Neil keep his place in the team ans also Jack Collison and Ricardo Vaz Te who were both instrumental in getting those much earned 3 points at the Brittania.
The shape of the team was as predictable as ever, with Andy Carroll leading the line and relying on support from Collison, Vaz Te and Matt Jarvis who is starting to find some form of late.
Gary O’Neil sat in front of the back four for most of the game whilst also providing support for the full back when in possession.
The game started off brightly with both sides creating chances in the early stages, but it was Chelsea who made the break-through 19th minute when Frank Lampard headed home from close range scoring his 200th goal for the Club.
An Andy Carroll goal ruled out for a push on Luiz was argubly West Ham’s best chance of drawing level in the first half against a Chelsea team who were showing signs of the kind of fluidity that they are so obviously capable of producing.
Mata especially was starting to pull the strings and was managing to play in between the lines, and Hazard also sensed that the West Ham full backs weren’t at all comfortable with his trickery.
A curios substitution at Half Time saw Allardyce replace Diame for Matt Taylor for reasons Allardyce gave as:
[quote]Diame’s retention of the ball wasn’t as it normally was and the things he normally does excellently didn’t come off today which set Chelsea off on counter attacks and apart from that run, he had an off day. [/quote]
Strange comments from Allardyce considering that Diame had a 90% pass completion rate, was dispossessed only twice and only lost possession of the ball 8 times.
His replacement for the second half, Matt Taylor, by comparison had a 79% pass completion rate and lost possession of the ball 11 times.
The Mata/Hazard combination came to fruition within 10 minutes of the restart which pretty much put paid to any hopes West Ham had of getting anything out of the game.
West Ham’s season won’t be defined by defeats against the top 4 that’s for sure and overall, the performance wasn’t a bad one.
The Hammers had more shots on target in the game ( 5 ) than they had averaged in their other EPL away games the season ( 3.42 ) and forced Cech into a late save from Carlton Cole which may have made the remaining 8 or so minutes interesting.
West Ham’s ball retention was slightly above their season and away game average of 74%, with a 75% pass completion figure in this game, with Jack Collison ( 91% ), Mo Diame ( 90% ) , Joey O’Brien ( 88% ), Gary O’Neil ( 79% ) and Matt Jarvis leading the way.
For the Blues however, their retention of the ball was what you would expect from a team who has a striker on the bench that cost more than the entire West Ham starting 11 did.
Ramirez ( 98% pass completion and 50 out of 51 successful passes ) kept things ticking other and distributed the ball brilliantly with Mata and Hazard creating 4 chances each.
On another day, Demba Ba would have had his goal scoring boots on and Chelsea would have inflicted a heavier defeat on a West Ham team that will now be looking at their remaining home games that Allardyce would have pin pointed as games in which to accumulate the points needed for survival on their first season back in the EPL.
An easy victory for Chelsea in the end but possibly bragging right for the team from East London with the Goal Difference aggregate of 0 over the two games between the teams this season not being lost on West Ham fans, especially where the gulf in finances are concerned.