Chelsea 0 West Ham 0 match report: Blues slip up in Premier League title race after being held by stubborn Hammers
Mourinho's side could have moved up to second place with a win
Thursday 30 January 2014
Jose Mourinho had been saying for a while that Chelsea lack the experience to win the Premier League title. It had always sounded like expectation-management, a simple trick from the old master of mind-games, but tonight he appeared to have a point.
Faced with a West Ham United team playing what Mourinho described as “19th century football”, Chelsea dominated the game but failed to unpick the massed claret ranks and could only draw 0-0, ending a run of seven straight wins.
Manchester City spent their evening scoring five goals at White Hart Lane and going top of the Premier League. Chelsea travel to the Etihad Stadium on Monday evening and Mourinho admitted, as he has done before, that his team are far from favourites. “For how many months have I said the same thing? One team is an end product. The other is a team trying to build. For me it's not a surprise. We go there on Monday. Are they favourites? Yes. Are they favourites to score again, four, five or six? Yes.” This time, it felt like fair analysis.
Mourinho said that he was proud of his players but ultimately they failed to do what is demanded of title-contenders - to score past a team focussed solely on stopping them. Mourinho joked afterwards that he wanted a “Black and Decker to destroy their wall” and his team did seem to lack something on a frustrating night at Stamford Bridge.
It was only late in the second half, having changed to 4-2-4, that Chelsea really started to threaten West Ham. Demba Ba, on as a sub, hit the post from close range. Samuel Eto'o had a goal disallowed when he assumed that Adrian had taken a free-kick and knocked the ball into the net, only for Neil Swarbrick to rule that the ball was not live. With almost the last kick of the game, Frank Lampard shot from his favourite position, on the edge of the box, but straight at Adrian's legs. West Ham had taken what they came for.
If this was the first time for a while that Chelsea did not look like champions, it was also a rare sight of a West Ham team who did not look destined for relegation. They showed all the discipline, strength and focus that we expect from a Sam Allardyce side and he was understandably delighted with the evening's work.
“A fantastically resilient performance,” beamed Allardyce afterwards. “It was all about frustrating a team with world-class players and not to come here and lie down. Tactically we got it right, stopping Hazard and Oscar and Willian and Eto'o scoring goals, and also stopping them scoring from set-plays. We nullified them, limited them to a few chances, even when we went down to 10 men when we had tired legs and minds.”
West Ham striker Andy Carroll looks on at Stamford Bridge
It was clear from the start that West Ham were moulding this game as they wanted it. It took more than hour to open up, there was little space on offer and few chances at either end. In bitter cold and under a haze of rain, it was not exactly a crowd-pleaser.
West Ham had Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan and Matt Taylor lined up in front of the back four, there was a solid wall for Chelsea to break through and in the first half they could not do it. were largely limited to speculative shots from the edge of the area. The best of these, from Oscar, was tipped onto the bar from Adrian, but the rest - from Willian, Samuel Eto'o, Ramires, and Jon Obi Mikel - flew safely high or wide of the target.
West Ham had a sporadic threat from set-pieces, with Andy Carroll, in his first league start for eight months, putting himself about gainfully. But all the action was at the other end.
Chelsea did improve in the second half, making some chances with some brisker passing, but they could not score and the tension was thickening. Chelsea fans were well aware that Manchester City were winning at White Hart Lane, sending them top. There was loud outrage when Joey O'Brien cut down Willian late, Mourinho encroaching onto the pitch and Neil Swarbrick only booking O'Brien having played advantage.
With Chelsea throwing bodies forward, West Ham could break and Carroll, tired after an hour of play, scuffed his shot from Stewart Downing's chipped cross. He was soon replaced by Carlton Cole while Mourinho, who needed the win more, threw on Nemanja Matic and Frank Lampard.
If the game felt perfectly set up for Lampard to decide, West Ham did not agree. Tomkins and Collins both threw themselves in front of his shots, as Allardyce's tired side ran and ran to stifle the blue shirts in their box. Chelsea tried to summon a special finish, the sort of desperate win that defines title races. This time, they could not do it.
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