Marko Arnautovic’s early strike was enough to give David Moyes his first victory as West Ham manager as they overcame champions Chelsea in an enthralling game.
Arnautovic finished off a slick team move in the 6th minute to score his first West Ham goal. Chelsea peppered their hosts throughout the second half – coming close through Alvaro Morata and Eden Hazard - but West Ham’s heroic defence stood strong to hold on to their clean sheet and record their first league win since September.
We look at the talking points from an eye-catching encounter at the London Stadium:-
#5 West Ham catch Chelsea cold in the first half and deservedly go ahead
Against all odds, it was the home side that was quicker off the blocks. They moved the ball around seamlessly, attacking the right wing through right-back Pablo Zabaleta and winger Mikhail Antonio.
Chelsea, on the other hand, looked out of pace. They gave away the ball too easily for Antonio Conte’s liking and allowed the Hammers to catch them on the counter. West Ham’s positive start deservedly earned them a lead within the opening 10 minutes.
Zabaleta played an inside pass to Mikhail Antonio, who found Marko Arnautovic on the edge of the box. The Austrian played a delightful one-two with Manuel Lanzini to find space in between Chelsea’s centre-backs. His left-footed shot was rifled into the corner to send the London Stadium into raptures.
Barring a short spell of Chelsea pressure, the hosts dominated the first half both defensively and in attack. They were organized at the back and gave Chelsea numerous problems on the wings when going forward. Arthur Masuaku, in particular, had a terrific game as he galloped forward to put Chelsea on the backfoot.
#4 Chelsea knocked on the door but got nowhere thanks to some solid defending
Chelsea suffered a major setback when they went behind after 6 minutes. They were sloppy in possession and paid the price. However, their response to going behind was the sign of a top 6 team. Led by Eden Hazard, the visitors got the ball moving quickly in an attempt to weave their way through West Ham’s defence.
Marcos Alonso pressed forward on the left channel while the midfield trio of Tiemoue Bakayoko, N’Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas were seen in their side’s attacking third, looking to provide that killer pass.
However, West Ham’s defenders defended manfully - keeping their concentration intact, putting a stranglehold on Alvaro Morata and getting bodies in the way of shots. Apart from two quick-fire saves by Adrian from Kante and Davide Zappacosta, Chelsea were unable to break down their hosts’ defence.
Aaron Cresswell, in particular, stands out for making a perfectly timed tackle to stop Zappacosta in his tracks and getting in the way of a fierce goal-bound shot from Bakayoko. Moyes can be extremely proud of his side’s defensive display, keeping the defending champions frustrated and ultimately, getting his first victory as West Ham manager.
#3 Marko Arnautovic and Mikhail Antonio unsettle Chelsea in the second half
As expected, Chelsea came out all guns blazing in the second half, withdrawing Tiemoue Bakayoko for an attacking option in Pedro. West Ham were happy to sit back and absorb all the pressure in a desperate measure to hang on to their slender lead.
What gave Chelsea the nerves, however, was West Ham’s decision to leave two men – Arnautovic and Antonio up front should the possibility of a counter-attack present itself. It did, not just once or twice, but on a plethora of occasions.
While it was Antonio who used his pace and power to do the ball-retrieving and cover the yards, Arnautovic played a brilliant supporting role as the target man for Antonio to find.
Most teams in West Ham’s situation would deploy just the one target man, but David Moyes deserves immense credit for risking one man in defence and putting the pair up the pitch to keep Chelsea’s defence on their toes.
The plan nearly worked with Antonio running into space and forcing Chelsea to track back on a number of instances. But for a lack of decision-making, West Ham could have finished Chelsea off earlier than the final whistle.
#2 Should Christensen have been penalized for handball?
A potentially game-changing moment early in the second half saw Marko Arnautovic storm forward in another West Ham counter-charge. The ex-Stoke forward cut inside young defender Andreas Christensen, who was struggling to track back and keep his opponent in check.
A flick from Arnautovic appeared to hit Christensen on the hand as he looked to create room for himself to have a go at Courtois’ goal. As expected, there were vehement appeals from the Hammers’ players and fans for a penalty. Referee Anthony Taylor took a second or two to ponder before deciding that the handball was not intentional enough to award a spot-kick.
However, replays showed that Christensen’s arm appeared to be in an unnatural position and clearly blocked Arnautovic from going clear through on goal. The incident comes under the ‘seen them given’ category and Christensen will feel slightly fortunate to be given the benefit of doubt. A 2-0 lead via a potential spot-kick could well have sealed the game for David Moyes’ men then and there.
#1 Can West Ham kick on from this victory?
Just as Crystal Palace’s first league victory this season against the defending champions set the tone for a consistent run of results for manager Roy Hodgson, West Ham boss David Moyes will hope that his side’s first victory of the season under his watch boosts their morale for the rest of the season.
With a busy festive season around the corner, a victory – a well-deserved one – against the reigning champions should give his side the required bout of confidence to accumulate the points needed to get themselves out of this relegation scrap.
The underperforming players during predecessor Slaven Bilic’s wretched final weeks as the manager are beginning to find their groove under Moyes.
The Scotsman likes to play a crossing style of football and his wingers and wing-backs in the form of Man-of-the-Match Arthur Masuaku, Mikhail Antonio and Pablo Zabaleta all stepped up their game when they went forward.
Marko Arnautovic’s height and physical strength make him an ideal target man and there are the services of Andy Carroll from the substitutes’ bench as well.
Mark Noble – often revered as Mr West Ham – gives nothing less than 100% as far as work-ethic is concerned, doing the necessary clean-up work in order to keep Chelsea frustrated. The centre-backs defended for their lives and had an answer to everything that came at them – be it teasing balls or powerful shots.
If the Hammers can stay together as a unit and put in such performances which reflect hard-work and a set game-plan, Moyes should steer his side clear of the bottom three before long.