West Ham United reserves 4-3 Chelsea reserves
Diego Tristan's first goals for West Ham United ensured the Hammers will end 2008 second in Barclays Premier Reserve League South.
The Spaniard netted twice as Alex Dyer's side clinched a thrilling 4-3 win over Chelsea on a freezing night at Bishops Stortford's Woodside Park. Tristan's 30th-minute opener was followed just four minutes later by a typically clinical effort from Freddie Sears. Former England Under-16 international Tom Harvey added a third with the best goal of the night, smashing in a fine first-time shot from 20 yards. An unlucky Jonathan Spector own goal, substitute Frank Nouble and Scott Sinclair's late penalty threatened to steal a dramatic point for the visitors, but the home side hung on.
Three of United's goals were created by Uruguay international Walter Lopez, who enjoyed a fine outing on the left wing. At the other end of the pitch, young Czech goalkeeper Marek Stech produced two superb saves to deny Morten Nielsen and Miroslav Stoch before the break.
The 459 hardy supporters who braved sub-zero temperatures on the Essex-Hertfordshire border were rewarded with an entertaining encounter between two sides who were both eager to play neat, passing football. However, it was an error from Blues goalkeeper Rhys Taylor that would lead to the hosts' opener.
The stopper's hurried, mis-hit clearance fell to Lopez 40 yards from goal. The South American dodged a challenge before finding Tristan, who showcased his undoubted talent by taking a touch and unleashing an unstoppable low drive past Taylor to register his first goal in a claret and blue shirt.
Just four minutes later, the Hammers doubled their advantage with a truly beautiful goal. Academy graduates Jack Widdowson and Harvey combined to release Lopez down the left flank. Again, the 23-year-old showed fine vision to locate the unmarked Sears inside the Chelsea penalty area and the young striker made no mistake, taking a touch before calmly rolling the ball past Taylor.
While West Ham were taking their chances, Stech was ensuring the visitors did not take theirs, blocking Nielsen's left-foot volley on 19 minutes and Stoch's low drive six minutes before the interval. The teenager was called into action again on the hour-mark, racing from his goal to deny Sinclair.
In front of Stech, Spector - playing his first competitive match since April - and Bondz 'Gala - back from a loan spell with League One MK Dons - were solid, while the lively Daniel Kearns was also heavily involved, firing one first half effort narrowly off-target.
After the break, Chelsea pressed hard, but Dyer's men refused to relinquish their 100 per cent home record. The Hammers looked to have made sure of a fourth win in four attempts with a sublime goal 18 minutes from time. Lopez and Sears combined to find Tristan on the edge of the penalty area. His neat flick fell to Harvey, who arrowed his shot into the top right-hand corner.
Chelsea would not give up, however, and hit back twice in quick succession through Spector's unfortunate flick and substitute Nouble. First, Spector inadvertantly diverted Jeffrey Bruma's cross past Stech on 76 minutes. Then, with five minutes remaining, Nouble took advantage of Stech's heavy touch to roll into the unguarded net. However, the goalkeeper regained his composure just 60 seconds later to repel Stoch's fierce effort as the visitors pressed for a late equaliser.
As Chelsea threw men forward, Harvey won a fine tackle on the right touchline before crossing for Tristan to head in his second from eight yards on 87 minutes. There was still time for Sinclair to fire home an added-time penalty after Spector had brought down Nouble, but the Hammers had done enough to climb four places in the standings.
West Ham United: Stech, Miller, Widdowson, Spector, 'Gala, Stokes, Harvey, Lopez, Kearns (Lee 74), Tristan, Sears.
Subs not used: Loveday, O'Neill, Eyjolfsson, Jeffery.
Chelsea: Taylor, Ofori-Twumasi, Bruna, Magnay, van Aanholt, Woods, Stoch, Mellis, Kakuta (Nouble 76), Nielsen (Rodriguez 46), Sinclair.
Subs not used: Sebek, Taiwo, Ferreira.