West Ham vs Chelsea: Benitez tastes defeat as Carlton Cole makes a statement
West Ham defeated Chelsea after 9 years at Upton Park which saw the Blues reach a milestone of worst ever run of form in 18 years. It was a game with contrasting halves as the managers battled out with their strategies. Another interesting London derby ended with an interesting result.
Juan Mata came into the starting XI after he was left out in midweek against Fulham. Rafa Benitez was hinting at fatigue that the team was experiencing due to lack of rotation during the tenure of Di Matteo and pledged to bring the squad back to full fitness. Oscar got the axe, as Victor Moses started along with Hazard and Torres in attack. Gary Cahill started instead of a suspended David Luiz. The big news though was the unavailability of Andy Carroll. The tall Englishmen was reportedly out for a month and this was good news for Chelsea. Last time Carroll played against them, was in the FA Cup final at Wembley. And he did give the Blues a run for their money that day.
Ex-Chelsea man Carlton Cole started in the striker role for the Hammers with Nolan, O’Neill and Jarvis behind him. Tomkins and Noble were playing in the midfield ahead of the defensive band of O’Brien, Collins, Demel and Reid. Both teams were lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, so an open game was expected. But, it proved to be nothing close to that. West Ham, from the moment go, were not attacking the ball, they sat deep in their half allowing Chelsea players to have the ball and play around their box. Gary Cahill was up against Carlton Cole and the striker was well contained for most of the half. Torres at the other end was looking a bit more positive, making runs behind the Hammers’ backline. Cesar Azpilicueta had a brilliant half as he neutralized every threat from his flank and was often the player to be found free when in attack mode.
The major battle though was in the midfield. West Ham players were chasing shadows all half as Mata and Hazard started to do their psychic thing. Mikel was the deeper midfielder and he was controlling the tempo of the game along with Ramires who was making those flashy runs on the counter. Mikel and Ramires held their ground perfectly when the opposition tried to break through them. Most of the interceptions and breakdowns were around the half way line from where Chelsea would again initiate attacks. Torres occasionally dropped deep, allowing Mata or Hazard to make that deceiving run into the box. The first goal came after a good Torres run which was picked out well by Moses. 3 players were waiting for a cutback and Torres found Mata with precision who slotted home the first goal of Rafa Benitez’s era.
Victor Moses was having a good time tormenting the hammers’ backline as he twisted and dodged past players with his dribbles. His trickery found Mata in space inside the box but the shot was well saved by Jaaskelainen. Moses was also contributing on the defensive side as he stole the ball away on more than 4 occasions. Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce’s men were not up to the mark with their play as they retorted to the long ball strategy, a trademark of their manager. The ball never managed to find Carlton Cole for many reasons. Their deep midfield was being overrun with Tomkins and Noble not knowing whom to mark and Kevin Nolan had to drop deep to help out. Their only positive moment came at the end of the first half when Cech had to stretch to prevent an equalizer. It was not looking good for Big Sam’s team heading into the half time interval.
Mohamed Diame and Matt Taylor were subbed in for Tomkins and O’Neill after the interval. This made an immediate impact on the game as Chelsea were pinned to their own half and balls kept floating in in the direction of Carlton Cole. Diame in the midfield looked like a man with a mission as he faced the Blues with courage and closed down any sort of space for them to capitalize on. West Ham were now more sound on the ball and were aiming to play down the wings to get the crosses in for their striker. Hazard was having a poor game as he was robbed of the ball many times and was not providing any sting into his team’s attacks. Victor Moses on the other flank was much better, offering support to the full backs by tracking back well.
West Ham equalized with a Carlton Cole header through an offside Matt Jarvis’s deflected cross. Ivanovic was appealing for a foul as Cole was all over him, but the referee allowed the goal. The hammers were knocking on Petr Cech’s goal time and again with their long ball strategy. Chelsea were looking to break with ground passes, but Diame and Nolan made sure those attacks were broken down. Mikel was being marked by Nolan, making the transition of play much difficult for the blues. Hazard came off for Oscar, but there seemed to be lack of coordination as Chelsea marched on to find their winning goal. By this time, it was clear for the home side that their strength was Chelsea’s prime weakness and that paid dividends for them. Marko Marin came on for Victor Moses and was decent with his time on the ball.
Carlton Cole was a completely different player from the first half as he kept Ivanovic on his toes and the Serb was seen very uncomfortable with the long balls being played behind the defence. One such moment led to a loose ball at the edge of the box which was smashed in by Diame in 85th minute to take West Ham into the lead. It looked as if the Blues gave up the match after that goal. Carlton Cole won 8 aerial duels in the whole match, the most in the match. Maiga was subbed in for Cole and he slotted himself into the right wing with Nolan playing as a striker. Ashley Cole was caught in possession which resulted in a third West Ham goal and Benitez’s first defeat as a Chelsea manager.
- James Collins had most number of clearances: 15
- Mikel made the most number of passes: 82 with a success rate of 85%.
- West Ham had 37 crosses into the box compared to Chelsea’s 18.
- Diame made 5 successful tackles in his 45 minute spell.
Shots On Target
Pass Success Rate
A tale of two halves would be a fitting tag for this match. Chelsea were comfortable when West Ham tried to pass the ball around and were not pressing much and deservedly got the lead. Sam Allardyce rallied his players during the interval, identified the weak spots and made the necessary changes. His changes proved to be fruitful and his team employed a rather ugly but effective strategy to come up top over a wounded Chelsea side. Top marks for Allardyce, not for his playing style but for his game changing substitutions. It’s hard to pick out a standout performance, but Carlton Cole with a goal and an assist might be the best player of the match, I guess.