The two sides went into the evening in starkly contrasting form. Chelsea had the opportunity to move above Arsenal following their draw at St. Mary’s on Tuesday and possibly City too, depending on results. While the visitors desperately needed to put a halt to their slide of late. Andy Carroll started a Premier League match for the away side, Diarra operated from the right flank with Noble, Nolan and Matthew Taylor scrapping it out in the middle. Chelsea opted for Eto’o again up front and the only slight surprise was that Mikel was preferred to Matic – perhaps with Monday’s trip to The Etihad in mind.
West Ham started the match as they meant to go on. Chelsea’s flowing trio were allowed the ball on the edge but any attempt to link up with Eto’o was immediately closed down with consistent effect. The most creative move saw Willian’s direct cross field ball to Oscar. The Brazilian’s rasping effort was brilliantly tipped onto the bar by Adrian. A couple of times there were opportunities from corners and the legs of Adrian denied a powerful downward header from Terry. Continued pressure and a sustained high tempo began to stretch West Ham. Oscar later drove the ball at Eto’o’s feet, only for his fine turn and shot to be kept out by the visiting keepers most impressive stop of the night. West Ham’s one and only shot of the half was just as clear cut, however. A corner to the back post found Tomkins and Cech’s parry hit Nolan and only just bounced wide. Whenever Hazard or Willian had the ball at their feet, there was a line of seven or eight West Ham in their own area. Carroll was chasing Chelsea’s trio on the edge of their area in the first half!
The beginning of the second half followed the pattern of the first. You could see that the players knew that the frequency of time wasting would increase and the early indicators of a long night were there for all to see. Chelsea’s opportunities were just as frequent but a little scrappier. Hazard was, as usual, the most likely source. Everything that was not an attack of brute force or one that resulted in a long distance effort stemmed from the Belgian’s jinking runs. Before his departure, Carroll had West Ham’s biggest opportunity of the night. A rare breakaway from Downing resulted in a cross that Cech tipped on for Carroll at the back post who completely fluffed his lines. Not long after he was replaced by former blue Carlton Cole. Lampard and Matic came on for Azpilicueta and Mikel and both got on the ball regularly in advanced positions. Lampard had two or three fantastic chances to grab the points against his former club, only to be denied by the now extremely busy Adrian. Matic decided to have a go from distance on a number of occasions too, which is a surprise considering that it seems his shooting ability is akin to that of Mikel. Ba was added to the mixing pot as a replacement for Oscar who hit the post from a low Hazard cross. A frantic final few minutes saw Eto’o up to his old tricks again by trying to con the opposing goalkeeper by tapping the ball into the net after he had dropped it. Hazard lashed wide, injuries, time wasting and blocks galore meant the visitors got their deserved reward of a point.
All in all a frustrating evening with Man City decimating Spurs again. Real credit must be given to West Ham who’s defending was far from desperate, it was really good. It now means that Chelsea really cannot afford to lose at City next up.