West Ham denied a point by Costa’s late Chelsea winner
PUBLISHED: 22:10 15 August 2016 | UPDATED: 22:10 15 August 2016
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The Hammers hit back with Collins strike but no happy ending at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 2 West Ham United 1
It was the Bridge of sighs for the Hammers as Diego Costa’s 89th-minute winner sent Slaven Bilić’s boys to an opening-game defeat.
After Eden Hazard’s early second-half penalty had given Chelsea the lead, West Ham United looked to have salvaged an unlikely point for the visitors thanks to James Collins lethal leveller just a quarter-hour from time.
But controversial Costa – who had been lucky to escape a second booking for a scything tackle on Adrian – gave Head Coach, Antonio Conte, a winning start in the Stamford Bridge dug-out with that late winner.
Sofiane Feghouli may have been missing through injury but the Hammers had still handed Premier League debuts to Havard Nordtveit, Arthur Masuaku and record-signing Andre Ayew, while Gokhan Töre found himself on the bench alongside Dimitri Payet.
Conte had not been the only new-boy on show for the Blues as N’Golo Kanté made his first start for his new club following his close-season transfer from Leicester City, while Michy Batshuayi was named as a substitute alongside rookie Ola Aina and former on-loan Hammer, Victor Moses.
And Kanté took little more than two minutes to make his mark in west London but it was on the breaking Andy Carroll, who found himself tripped on the halfway line at the cost of of a yellow card for France’s Euro 2016, runner-up.
With the early exchanges being played out in a fast and furious midfield battleground, goal chances were few and far between and the closest either side went towards breaking the deadlock inside the opening quarter-hour came when Adrian diverted Branislav Ivanovic’s low, angled eight-yarder around the base of his left-hand post.
Hazard also fired over from 18 yards, before Conte and Bilić earned the biggest cheer of the proceedings to date, when the impish Italian cleverly claimed Adrian’s wayward punt out of the King’s Road sky before deftly cushioning the ball to his Croatian counterpart in the technical area.
Oscar felt he he should have had a penalty when he allowed his trailing leg to make contact with Winston Reid’s outstretched foot and referee Anthony Taylor’s denial of a spot-kick saw Costa cautioned for dissent, before Collins quickly followed the Spaniard into the book for a trip on Nemanja Matic.
On the half-hour mark, Hazard burst from half-way before fizzing a low angled shot across the face of Adrian and inches beyond the right-hand upright and, although the Hammers escaped, it still came at a cost as Ayew pulled up holding his knee in the chase back to goal and had to be replaced by Töre.
Certainly, the opening period was belonging to Chelsea, who then saw Costa send a 20-yarder whistling inches over the crossbar and, apart from an early Mark Noble scuff forwards, the Hammers had barely threatened Thibaut Courtois, while in the dying seconds Adrian tipped over Willian’s 25-yard free-kick to keep it goalless at the break.
But within seconds of the restart, Chelsea were piling on the pressure, once more, with Costa firing at Adrian’s knees and, with less than a minute on the second half clock, Michail Antonio tripped Cesar Azpiliceuta in the box and this time referee Taylor did, indeed, point to the spot.
With just a clear 12 yards separating Hazard from Adrian, the Belgian drilled his penalty high down the middle as the Spanish ‘keeper dived to his right.
Put simply, Antonio’s foul had gifted Chelsea the lead and insult was added to injury for the Hammers makeshift right-back, who having also been booked for his reckless challenge, then found himself replaced by Sam Byram as he departed to the dug-out without as much as an acknowledgment from the bewildered Bilić.
On the hour, Enner Valencia was outmuscled in midfield and only Adrian stopped Willian from doubling the Chelsea lead with a fine, low save that saw the Brazilian’s angled effort pushed beyond the far post for a corner.
Midway thorough the half, Payet was summoned into action as Bilić desperately tried to gain a foothold back into the contest but with the Frenchman still finding his feet, Adrian found himself losing his after Costa took the Hammers ‘keeper out with a slide tackle that should have earned a second booking of the night for the irascible Spanish striker.
One man who was booked, though, was Azpiliceuta for a high challenge on the stooping Andy Carroll but Payet’s 18-yard free-kick cannoned off Costa in the Chelsea wall at the expense of a corner.
But all was not lost for West Ham for, when Payet floated over the corner with a quarter-hour remaining, Collins nodded goalwards, where Valencia hooked the ball back into the Welshman’s path and Courtois was given no chance with the Ginger Pelé’s venomous volley.
The Hammers thought they had salvaged a point but with just a minute remaining, substitute Batshuayi outjumped Winston Reid to nod the ball into the path of Costa, who drilled a low 20-yarder through Collins legs and into the bottom left-hand corner to claim victory for the Blues.
BLUES: Courtois, Ivanovic, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Terry, Kanté, Matic, Willian (Pedro 80), Oscar (Batshuayi 85), Hazard (Moses 85), Costa. Unused subs: Begovic, Fàbregas, Loftus-Cheek, Aina.
HAMMERS: Adrian, Antonio (Byram 52), Masuaku, Reid, Collins, Kouyate, Noble, Nordtveit (Payet 66), Valencia, Ayew (Töre 35), Carroll. Unused subs: Randolph, Obiang, Ogbonna, Byram, Oxford.
Booked: Kanté (3), Costa (20), Collins (21), Antonio (46), Azpilicueta (75).
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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