Chelsea left frustrated by West Ham’s defiance

Home side have 37 shots as Joey O’Brien is ruled out for up to 12 weeks

Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 23:00

Chelsea 0 West Ham 0

Somewhere amid the din at the final whistle, as the locals gnashed in livid frustration and the visitors whipped up a taunting celebration, Jose Mourinho had actually been proved right. The Chelsea manager insisted on the eve of this derby against a side ensconced in the bottom three that his own charges were not yet ready to reclaim the title. The stalemate that ensued seemed to prove him right.

The Portuguese’s animated exasperation on the touchline at every perceived act of time-wasting suggested he had privately been thinking very differently about his team’s prospects this season, but this was a reminder that, against resolute opposition, his team can still run aground. They lacked the slickness of recent weeks, the pace of the pass slowed as they monopolised the ball, and West Ham’s stubborn defence would not yield. This was an excellent point in their own struggle against relegation but Chelsea will find no satisfaction in remaining third.

For all Mourinho’s pre-match assertions that securing a top-four finish has to be Chelsea’s priority, this still looked like an opportunity that could not be passed up. Arsenal’s draw at Southampton had finally offered their London rivals the chance to spring into the top two at the very least. The tweaks made to his lineup were designed to maintain freshness, even if Oscar and Eden Hazard merely resumed where they had left off on Sunday. The Brazilian forced Adrian to tip an early effort, curled from the corner of the area, on to the crossbar and the contest appeared to be following the script.

Yet the visitors stuck doggedly to their task, and increasingly took encouragement from their resistance. Even the loss of Mohamed Diame on the half-hour did not disrupt their resolve. The midfielder tumbled over an advertising hoarding and on to a child (who, impressively, managed to clutch on to his hot dog as he disappeared beneath the 6ft Senegalese) injuring his hip in the process.

Andy Carroll was dominant in the air, even against such an experienced back-line, and cannily targeted Cesar Azpilicueta from diagonal passes flung over from the opposite flank. When possession was surrendered the visitors massed in their own half, suffocating Chelsea’s space and clogging up their movement.

Had Petr Cech not reacted smartly to turn aside James Tomkins’ downward header from a delivery by Stewart Downing then they might even have led, though it was Adrian, blocking with his foot from John Terry’s header and his left hand from Samuel Eto’o’s half-volley, who caught the eye.


Steady possession
They needed to retain such rugged defiance. Chelsea sprang at them again after the interval, anxious to alter the complexion of the derby by forging ahead. Whenever the hosts built up an attack with steady possession, monopolising the ball for lengthy spells, they confronted banks of visiting players. Oscar and Hazard occasionally darted into the channels in an attempt to bypass the clutter, but their delivery only ever hinted at reward.

Ramires, tearing unnoticed at an angle towards the six-yard box, sliced Azpilicueta’s cross wide from their clearest sight of goal yet. Mourinho’s anxious fidgeting rather summed up the mood of the majority with the Portuguese then apoplectic when Joey O’Brien slid through late and clattered Willian. Sam Allardyce revealed afterwards that O’ Brien is facing 10 to 12 weeks on the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder. Carroll’s horrible air-kick was a reminder that the visitors also posed a threat on the counter.

Those opportunities were rare, Chelsea’s formation tweaked and Frank Lampard introduced at the expense of a left-back. Even then, Matt Taylor summoned a wonderful block to deny the veteran in front of goal. This was not to be Chelsea’s night.

CHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta (Lampard 63), Ramires, Mikel (Matic 63), Willian , Oscar (Ba 80), Hazard, Eto’o. Subs not used: Cole, Luiz, Schurrle, Schwarzer. Booked: Ramires.
WEST HAM UTD: Adrian, Demel, Collins, Tomkins, O’Brien, Noble, Taylor, Diame (Jarvis 30), Nolan (Nocerino 80), Downing, Carroll (Carlton Cole 64). Subs not used: Borriello, McCartney, Morrison, Jaaskelainen. Booked: O’Brien, Taylor, Nolan.
Referee:
Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire).
Guardian Service