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Wily West Ham hold their own against powerful Chelsea

PUBLISHED: 11:30 24 September 2018

West Ham United's Mark Noble (left) and Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic battle for the ball during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

West Ham United's Mark Noble (left) and Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic battle for the ball during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

PA Wire/PA Images

Yarmolenko miss costs Hammers an unlikely win

Chelsea's David Luiz (left) and West Ham United's Michail Antonio battle for the ball during the Premier League match at London Stadium.Chelsea's David Luiz (left) and West Ham United's Michail Antonio battle for the ball during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

Many would have predicted that West Ham would have rolled over against mighty Chelsea on Sunday at the London Stadium.

Add to that the loss of star man Marko Arnautovic through injury and the alarm bells were sounding even before kick-off.

And so it shows just how much this West Ham team has improved that in the end, the Hammers were left wondering about what might have been.

Chelsea had won five out of five, they had scored 14 goals and in Eden Hazard they possessed one of the best in the Premier League.

West Ham United's Michail Antonio (left) and Chelsea's Eden Hazard battle for the ball during the Premier League match at London Stadium.West Ham United's Michail Antonio (left) and Chelsea's Eden Hazard battle for the ball during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

And though the Blues had most of the possession, it was West Ham who had the clearer chances in the match.

Twice Michail Antonio could have given West Ham a deserved lead and then on 77 minutes came the best chance of all.

Substitute Robert Snodgrass put in a perfect cross from the left, right on the head of the unmarked Andriy Yarmolenko, only for the Ukrainian to somehow nod wide.

It was so frustrating for manager Manuel Pellegrini who had set up his team and tactics perfectly to combat Chelsea.

“I think we played a good practical game because we allowed them to have the ball in the zone we wanted them to have it,” said the boss.

“When they got near the box we defended well and kept our first clean sheet.”

He was right. The manager got it right. Declan Rice and captain Mark Noble put in superb shifts to stop the Chelsea moves in their tracks, while Fabian Balbuena and Issa Diop are looking better with every game.

Add to that, excellent composure and saves from keeper Lukasz Fabianski and it was always going to be tough to break them down.

“It’s a good point because we were playing against Chelsea who were high up the table,” said Pellegrini.

“I think it was a very close game. We had some clear chances with Antonio in the first half and Yarmolenko in the second and they had one clear chance with the rebound that Morata hit against the keeper.”

Without Arnautovic, it was a chance for Antonio to show what he could do as a lone striker and he gave it his all.

A little short on the pace and fitness he had a couple of seasons ago, nevertheless, he ran his heart out, chased down lost causes and got into scoring positions he might have done better with.

“Football is like that. If you don’t score the chances you have, you don’t win,” said the manager.

“But I am happy with the team and happy because we are working for every ball. Maybe I’d have preferred it if we had had more possession, but we created some chances.

“I think that was a good tactical game and, if you don’t get the win, at least don’t lose it. I’m happy because we prepared for the game and the way we prepared, we did it.”

At last we are seeing the tactical acumen of the former Premier League winning boss. He seems to have worked out his best team and even without his star man, he still managed to look the more potent side against Chelsea.

If Arnautovic had played, West Ham probably would have won this match. Without him they still showed what they are capable of.

Bring on Manchester United.

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