Eden Hazard’s winner helps Chelsea preserve their five-point lead

Courtois ensures leaders keep rampant West Ham at bay in derby thriller

West Ham Utd 0 Chelsea 1

If Chelsea do indeed hoist their third Premier League title under José Mourinho's stewardship in May then both team and manager may point to this nailbiting success across the capital as key.

There were times in a blistering derby when a team who have grown used to life clear at the top were forced to defend desperately with their lead feeling flimsy amid the energy and urgency whipped up by West Ham.

The game ended in a din of penalty appeals from the home support, Aaron Cresswell’s wondrous goal-line clearance from Willian on the counterattack adding to the intensity of the drama.

For Chelsea to emerge victorious from the frenzy, and with their five-point advantage retained at the summit, was a considerable achievement, and this against a team who had mustered a solitary win in their 10 previous games and whose season had apparently been on the verge of petering out prematurely.


First trophy

Before this game, Mourinho made great play of being seen to move on from Sunday’s Capital One Cup triumph, the first trophy of his second stint at Stamford Bridge, which was celebrated with gusto on the turf and in the dressing rooms at Wembley but a success, he claimed, which had already been digested with some satisfaction by the time his team boarded their coach home.

Certainly there was a need to refocus on this contest in which West Ham posed a very different threat to the league leaders. Where Spurs had huffed and puffed at Wembley, West Ham were quick and direct, Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho a slippery partnership pouring eagerly at backtracking opponents.

The absence of the suspended Nemanja Matic was felt more keenly than ever with that pair scurrying beyond the makeshift central midfielder, Kurt Zouma, and darting at Gary Cahill and John Terry. The captain, so impressive this season, was discomforted by the forwards' urgency and swiftly booked for dragging down Valencia. Chelsea rather creaked through those opening exchanges.

Full back’s cross

The excellent Carl Jenkinson summoned another fine centre from that flank as half-time approached, the full-back's cross met by Sakho only for Courtois to conjure a fine reaction save and deflect the attempt. And yet, by then, West Ham were playing catch-up having been exposed on the counterattack, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fàbregas exchanging passes at pace with the Spaniard liberating Ramires.

His cross was whipped across the six-yard box where Hazard appeared alone to plant his header beyond Adrián. Jenkinson and Aaron Cresswell, the deepest defenders in a ramshackle back line, appealed for offside in vain.

Yet there was just as heavy a reliance on Hazard’s compatriot at the other end. Courtois, was stretched here as his defence heaved to contain West Ham’s frantic forays forward.

The momentum remained with the home side until the final whistle brought sweet relief for Jose Mourinho and the league leaders.

WEST HAM UTD: Adrian, Jenkinson, Tomkins, Reid (Collins 8), Cresswell, Kouyate (Nene 87), Noble, Nolan, Downing, Sakho, Valencia. Subs not used: Jarvis, O'Brien, Demel, Jaaskelainen, Song. Booked: Kouyate, Collins, Nolan.

CHELSEA: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Fabregas, Zouma, Ramires, Oscar (Willian 74), Hazard (Remy 90), Costa (Drogba 90). Subs not used: Cech, Luis, Cuadrado, Loftus-Cheek. Booked: Terry, Hazard, Fabregas, Drogba.

Attendance: 34,927

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)

Guardian Service