Chelsea 1 West Ham United 1: Hernandez helps Hammers make point
PUBLISHED: 19:09 08 April 2018 | UPDATED: 19:09 08 April 2018
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Supersub Javier Hernàndez stepped from the bench to net a lifeline leveller at soggy, saturated Stamford Bridge, where this valuable point lifted the Hammers six points clear of the Premier League drop-zone.
César Azpilicueta had given the Blues an interval lead with a 35th-minute opener but after watching his team-mates survive several second-half scares, Mexican international Hernandez did not waste any time in marking his arrival with a 72nd-minute equaliser that now leaves Chelsea 10 points adrift of the coveted Champions League places.
Last Saturday’s valuable victory over Southampton had meant that the Hammers kicked off in 14th place and following that welcome win, David Moyes made just one enforced switch as Edimilson Fernandes came in for Michail Antonio (hamstring).
West Ham may have beaten the reigning champions at London Stadium back in December but, way out west, it had been a different story with the East Enders failing to win on their previous 11 visits – a wretched run stretching back to 2002.
And following the rapturous applause that lasted the regulation minute and yet more, in tribute to the midweek passing of Chelsea legend Ray Wilkins, Moyes’ boys could have found themselves in trouble early on, when Eden Hazard’s 18-yarder skidded just a whisker wide of Joe Hart’s right-hand post.
In reply, Marco Arnautović burst through at the other end before being denied at the expense of the first corner of the afternoon and then the in-form Austrian found himself racing in on goal, once more, but this time his eight-yarder was deflected behind off Gary Cahill for another flag-kick.
Defeat at home to Tottenham Hotspur last Sunday had left the Blues in fifth, well adrift of the top four, and after that forlorn fifth reverse in their last seven Premier League games, Antonio Conte made two changes as skipper Cahill and Thibaut Courtois returned in place of substitutes Andreas Christensen and Willy Caballero.
Midway through the first half, Alvaro Morata stroked the ball beyond Hart but the Hammers were rescued by an offside flag against the Spaniard, who then came within inches of backheeling Hazard’s tricky low left-sided cross wide of the far post.
With West Ham yielding possession far too easily, on the half-hour mark, Willian then strolled onto a half-cleared corner but his bending 20-yarder curled the wrong side of the right upright.
Ten minutes before the break, that man Willian looked odds-on to score, when Hazard released him behind the pushed-up Hammers defence but with just Hart to beat, the Brazilian saw the England ‘keeper deflect his low shot over the bar with his outstretched left foot.
That let-off only proved brief respite for the visitors, though, for Hazard and Cesc Fábregas worked Chelsea’s short corner back to former West Ham loanee Victor Moses, who floated a right-wing cross to the far post.
Surrounded by Hammers, the outnumbered Morata still managed to win the aerial battle and nod the ball back across goal, where Azpilicueta stole in front of the statuesque Arnautović to prod the Blues into an interval lead with his third goal of the season.
Just after the restart, Mark Noble collected his fifth yellow card of the campaign for tugging back the escaping Hazard and, from the subsequent free-kick, Willian almost doubled the hosts’ lead but his angled eight-yarder rolled agonisingly beyond the far post.
Hazard then sent a low, unplayable low centre whistling across the face of goal before Moses launched an ambitious 18-yarder high into the west London skies, while Declan Rice brilliantly unloaded Morata as he raced towards goal.
And with Chelsea turning the screw, Morata also headed over from six yards as lone-striker Arnautović cut a lonely, isolated figure in the West Ham attack, constantly surrounded by a trio of home defenders.
Arthur Masuaku’s sloppy pass saw Morata sidefoot home but for the second time the Spaniard was denied by another offside flag and, with Aaron Cresswell having suffered an ankle injury when landing heavily with Willian, the Hammers defender was replaced by Patrice Evra, midway through the second half.
After Moses whipped a 20-yarder just wide, Moyes chose to give the anonymous Arnautović more support in the shape of Hernàndez, who stepped from the bench on 69 minutes as Fernandes retired.
Certainly, the Mexican wasted no time in repaying his manager’s faith in him by levelling within just four minutes of his arrival, when Noble sent a deep ball into the Chelsea area, where Cahill’s half-cleared header was collected by Arnautović on the byline.
With the fresh-legged substitute racing into the area, the alert Austrian cut the ball back to strike partner Hernàndez, who drilled an unstoppable 15-yarder past Courtois to equalise with his eighth goal of the season.
Buoyed by a leveller that had looked so unlikely for most of the second period, Arnautović then sent another effort agonisingly across the Chelsea goal, while at the other end, man-of-the-match Hart produced a world-class save to divert Marcus Alonso’s goalbound 20-yarder over his right-hand angle.
Olivier Giroud and Pedro came on for Moses and Morata and there was still time for N’Golo Kanté to thwart Arnautović with a last-gasp tackle that could easily have seen referee Kevin Friend point to the spot, while more assured handling by Hart ensured that West Ham held on for that precious point, ahead of next Monday’s crucial showdown with Stoke City.
Chelsea: Courtois, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Rüdiger, Cahill, Kanté, Moses(Pedro 77), Fàbregas, Willian, E. Hazard, Morata (Giroud 77). Unused subs: Caballero, Drinkwater, Bakayoko, Christensen, Emerson.
West Ham: Hart, Zabaleta, Masuaku, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell (Evra 63), Noble, Kouyaté, Fernandes (Hernàndez 69), Màrio (Cullen 84), Arnautović. Unused subs: Adrián, Hugill, Pask, Diangana.
Referee: Kevin Friend.