West Ham sunk by brilliant Hazard
PUBLISHED: 22:07 08 April 2019 | UPDATED: 22:07 08 April 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers battled well in the second half but they could not stop Chelsea collecting the Premier League points
Chelsea 2 West Ham United 0
The Hammers encountered a major Hazard at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea leapt into third-place with victory over Manuel Pellegrini’s men.
The unstoppable Eden Hazard showed just why he is firmly fixed on Real Madrid’s radar with a deadly double that leaves West Ham without an away win in 2019, while the Blues made it a hat-trick of victories to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive and well.
The barnstorming Belgian’s sensational solo goal gave Maurizio Sarri’s men an interval lead and, although the Hammers put on a better second-half showing, Hazard sealed victory in the final minute with his 19th goal of the season.
A dour, dismal, disappointing defeat against Everton last weekend already meant that the visitors kicked off in 11th-spot, six places and 21 points adrift of the Blues and, following that loss Pellegrini made a quintet of changes.
Skipper Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Fabián Balbuena, Ryan Fredericks and Javier Hernández all returned in place of Pablo Zabaleta plus substitutes Issa Diop, Pedro Obiang, Robert Snodgrass and Lucas Pérez.
Despite that sweeping change of personnel, the opening quarter-hour of this contest proved equally as scrappy and uninspiring as both sides yielded possession all too easily but with a warning of what was to come, Hazard did burst clear only for the consequently-cautioned Angelo Ogbonna to desperate bundle the Belgian to the floor.
Emerson curled the subsequent 20-yard free-kick over both the West Ham wall and wide of the right-hand upright, while N’Golo Kanté then broke into the Hammers area before sending a rising 18-yarder into the vociferous visiting supporters packed behind Lukasz Fabianski’s goal.
Following their victory over Brighton & Hove Albion five days earlier, the Blues – with their sights firmly set on that third-place – had made just two changes as Gonzalo Higuain and Antonio Rüdiger came in for the benched Olivier Giroud and Andreas Christensen.
Certainly, the recalled Rüdiger made his mark as he clattered into fellow central defender, David Luiz, who needed treatment, while at the other end, Balbuena marked his return with a last-gasp tackle on César Azpilicueta inside the six-yard box.
With the Hammers failing to trouble Kepa Arrizabalaga, only one side was going to open the scoring and, sure enough, on 24 minutes, Hazard collected the ball midway inside the West Ham half, whereupon he embarked upon a meandering run that left the Noble, Declan Rice, Ogbonna and Balbuena all rooted to the spot.
And having ghosted past that statuesque quartet, the breaking Belgian then prodded an eight-yarder past the now helplessly-exposed Fabianski, a split-second before Fredericks fruitlessly slid-in.
Having brilliantly netted his 18th goal of the campaign, Real Madrid’s No.1 target then saw Bernabeu old-boy Higuain rifle an angled effort against the near post before the live-wire Hazard was then bundled over on the edge of the six-yard box by the unpunished Marko Arnautović as his one-man show continued.
With a one-sided half drawing to a close, Callum Hudson-Odoi then forced Fabianski to tip over his 15-yard scorcher and, although the Hammers finally mustered a corner that came to nothing, Higuain would have doubled Chelsea’s lead but for the trailing ankle of Balbuena, who denied the Argentinian on the stroke of half-time.
Snodgrass replaced Hernández for the restart but it was soon clear that Hazard was intent on continuing his solo-show as he danced his way into the Hammers area once again before firing an angled effort inches beyond the far post.
Ten minutes into the second period, though, West Ham finally forced the hitherto redundant Arrizabalaga into action, when Manuel Lanzini raced onto Arnautović’s cut-back but the Spaniard parried the Argentinian’s shot.
And after Snodgrass went down in the area without reward, Anderson’s low 18-yard curler was held at full stretch by the Chelsea ‘keeper.
In reply, Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s cheeky chip was held by the alert Fabianski, who then saw the Chelsea youngster lash another effort just wide.
West Ham were certainly enjoying their best spell of the game and, as the April showers rained down on Stamford Bridge, Aaron Cresswell’s instinctive 20-yarder steamed through the west London night and just an inch or so beyond the far upright.
Obiang was introduced for the final 20 minutes as Noble retired, while Ross Barkley stepped from the opposite dug-out in place of Loftus-Cheek and, after Giroud came on for Higuain, Rice sent a 25-yarder sailing wide.
With eight minutes remaining, Azpilicueta was booked for tugging back Anderson and, when the consequent free-kick was floated towards the far post, Arnautović’s goal-bound header was diverted behind by Emerson, who then saw Balbuena slash wide as the subsequent corner landed in the danger-zone.
That was as close West Ham would come to snatching an unlikely late point and, after ‘keeper Arrizabalaga was bizarrely booked for time-wasting, that man Hazard cemented victory in the final minute when he escaped the attentions of Anderson to pop up at the far post and meet Barkley’s inch-perfect chip with an angled, 12-yard volley that gave Fabianski no chance.
BLUES: Arrizabalaga, Rüdiger, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Emerson, Kanté, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Barkley 70), Hudson-Odoi (Pedro 85), Hazard, Higuain (Giroud 77). Unused subs: Caballero, Kovacic, Willian, Christensen.
HAMMERS: Fabianski, Fredericks, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Rice, Noble (Obiang 70), Lanzini, Anderson, Arnautović, Hernández (Snodgrass h/t). Unused subs: Adrián, Nasri, Diop, Masuaku, Pérez.
Booked: Ogbonna (10), Azpilicueta (84), Arrizabalaga (85)
Referee: Chris Kavanagh