Four things we loved about West Ham United's win over Chelsea
1. West Ham United’s fighting spirit
In his pre-match interview with broadcasters, Aaron Cresswell repeatedly referenced a need for West Ham United to show ‘fighting spirit’ if they were to beat a Chelsea team with a perfect record since the restart.
It appears his teammates were watching and listening to the experienced left-back as the Hammers shrugged off the twin disappointments of seeing a Tomas Soucek ‘goal’ disallowed for offside by VAR and conceding to Willian’s penalty in the space of seven first-half minutes.
The Irons dug deep – very deep – equalising through Soucek’s towering header before scoring arguably their goal of the season to take the lead six minutes after half-time.
The tireless Michail Antonio was the goalscorer, and Jarrod Bowen the assister, but what you might have missed is that every single outfield player touched the ball in the build-up – Fredericks, Soucek, Diop, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Lanzini, Rice, Lanzini, Rice, Fornals, Rice, Antonio, Fornals, Bowen and finally Antonio!
Even then, Chelsea drew level when Willian curled an inch-perfect free-kick in off the post, but again West Ham showed that ‘fighting spirit’ to snatch a vital win with a minute to go.
Again, it was a superb goal in its own right as Soucek won a header, Declan Rice hooked forward and Antonio held the ball up, as he had done all night, before playing a neat one-two with Pablo Fornals and setting Andriy Yarmolenko clear with an inch-perfect through ball.
The Ukrainian showed all his experience to cut inside Antonio Rudiger and smash an accurate low shot into the bottom corner, giving goalkeeper Kepa no chance.
When you combine ‘fighting spirit’ with the quality in this squad, West Ham United can be a match for anyone.
2. Super Tommy Soucek
While Michail Antonio’s tireless performance playing as a lone striker, Jarrod Bowen’s two assists and stand-in captain Declan Rice’s outstanding performance all grabbed the attention during Wednesday’s win, it was Tomas Soucek who was, statistically at least, West Ham United’s outstanding player.
The Czech Footballer of the Year showed exactly why he has won titles and appeared in the UEFA Champions League with Slavia Prague and starred for his country with an imperious display in central midfield.
The tall, strong, athletically gifted midfielder used all his attributed to win his midfield battle with N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Matteo Kovacic.
Not only did the 25-year-old score his first goal in Claret and Blue, having seen an earlier strike ruled out by VAR, but his all-round game literally towered above those around him, as he won eight aerial battles (twice as many as anyone else on the pitch), made four interceptions, four clearances and three tackles.
It looks like West Ham fans have a second 'Super Tommy' to cheer!
3. Double trouble
West Ham United’s 3-2 win over Chelsea completed a first Premier League ‘double’ over the Blues since the 2002/03 season.
Seventeen years ago, it was Paolo Di Canio who was the Hammers’ hero, scoring twice in a 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge before returning from exile to score an emotional winner in a 1-0 success at the Boleyn Ground.
This time around, the goalscoring burden was shared, with Aaron Cresswell bagging the winner in west London in November, and Tomas Soucek, Michail Antonio and Andriy Yarmolenko finding the net in Wednesday’s win at London Stadium.
In fact, this week’s success completed just the second ‘double’ over the Blues since 1980/81, and was the eighth time we have beaten Chelsea home and away in the league in the same season overall.
4. Antonio activates ‘Beast Mode’
Michail Antonio activated ‘Beast Mode’ on Wednesday evening.
Playing as a long striker, the No30 produced an all-round performance among his best in five seasons in a West Ham United shirt.
Alongside his trademark tireless running – with and without the ball – Antonio held the ball up as well as any centre forward in the world, scored one predatory goal and created the winner for Andriy Yarmolenko with a perfectly weighted pass.
Antonio touched the ball more times, 49, and took more shots, five, than any other Hammer.
On a night when his team needed him more than ever, West Ham’s Mr Versatile did it all.