Issa Diop: We just have to keep going and to push and we will see
Issa Diop says West Ham United’s challenge for a top-four Premier League finish is far from over, despite Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat by Chelsea.
The narrow loss saw the Hammers slip three points behind the Blues with five games left, while the pack of clubs behind them closed the gap, with Liverpool drawing with Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur defeating Southampton and Everton beating Arsenal.
Saturday’s frustrating defeat saw Chelsea score through Timo Werner’s counter-attacking goal when West Ham were arguably enjoying their best period of the match, David Moyes’ side struggle to create clear-cut chances, and Fabián Balbuena controversially sent-off late on following a VAR review for a challenge on Ben Chilwell.
But, while things went against West Ham at the weekend, defender Diop is not giving up on his UEFA Champions League dream.
We still have five games and I hope we can win the five
“It was an important game and of course it was not good to lose that game because they are ahead of us, but we still have five games and I hope we can win the five,” he said, determinedly.
When asked why the previously free-scoring Hammers had found it so difficult to break through against Chelsea, the Frenchman was philosophical, praising Chelsea’s quality and organisation and lamenting his own team’s inability to make the most of the few opportunities they did create.
“First of all, they are very good and then we didn’t do the right thing at the right moments, so against a good team like that it is always difficult to create some chances and when you have some you have to score,” he observed.
While West Ham did find it difficult to muster clear-cut opportunities against Thomas Tuchel’s UEFA Champions League semi-finalists and FA Cup finalists, they did enjoy periods where they were clearly the better side.
Jesse Lingard went closest to scoring a second-half equaliser when his lob curled a yard wide, but the hosts’ hopes of a grandstand finish were scuppered when Balbuena was red-carded by referee Chris Kavanagh, despite appearing to catch Chilwell after clearing the ball upfield.
The Paraguayan will now miss next Monday’s trip to Burnley, where Diop hopes the Hammers can return to winning ways and get their European challenge back on track.
“The manager changed some little things at half-time and it was better in the second half with the ball,” said the centre-half. “It was good but we didn’t score, but that’s football.
“There is no good time to have a red card. It’s always bad, but we had one last week as well [when Craig Dawson was sent-off at Newcastle United] and this one was a big decision.
“We just have to keep going and to push and we will see.”