Hammers lose out in tight Chelsea clash

West Ham United 0-1 Chelsea
Premier League

West Ham United suffered a narrow defeat to Chelsea on Saturday as Timo Werner’s goal late in the first half proved enough to separate the sides.

With both teams in the hunt in the race for the top-four, this was a tight and edgy affair, but it was the visitors who found the route to goal to claim maximum points.

Werner was perfectly positioned to turn home from close range two minutes before the interval, giving his side a base they would not relinquish.

The Hammers had a penalty shout for handball against César Azpilicueta turned down, while Jesse Lingard shot wide of the mark in the second period, but in truth the Hammers found it tough to create clear chances.

Fabián Balbuena was harshly sent-off late in the piece after catching Ben Chilwell in his follow through from a clearance, and the Hammers will look to bounce back when they travel to Burnley next weekend.

David Moyes made two changes to his back-line for the visit of the Blues, with Craig Dawson suspended and Ben Johnson dropping to the bench. Balbuena and Ryan Fredericks were the men who came into the starting XI in their place.

The game began quietly, with Chelsea quickly establishing a dominance in terms of possession, although they struggled to break through a stubborn Hammers defence.

Mason Mount was looking bright in their efforts to unlock the home side and a fine piece of control in the right channel set up a chance to Werner on the half-hour.

Mount’s touch had Issa Diop retreating into the box, and with Werner square, the England midfielder passed low for his striker. He had his back to goal, but spun before shooting wide when off balance.

West Ham were looking relatively comfortable, though, sitting deep and looking to hit Chelsea on the break when their attacks broke down.

As the first half drew to a close, West Ham began to find a little more joy going forward. They had a shout for a penalty nine minutes before the break when Angelo Ogbonna challenged for a Lingard free-kick from wide, the ball dropped for Tomáš Souček and he hooked goalwards. Cesar Azpilicueta blocked on the line and a VAR check confirmed he could do little about the ball rebounding onto his arm – down by his side – from his chest.

But just as though West Ham might have felt they were getting the measure of their visitors, Chelsea took the lead two minutes before the break.

Christian Pulisic found Chilwell in space on the left flank, and he threaded a low cross through the eye of a West Ham needle for Werner to tuck home from close range.

Werner wasted a glorious chance to double his – and his team’s – tally nine minutes after the restart when he hunted down a rebound after Łukasz Fabiański’s parry from Mount’s 20-yard shot dropped perfectly for him. The goal seemed to be at the German’s mercy, but he knocked wide of the mark.

West Ham were being more forceful in their play, though, at the start of the second half, and Lingard wasn’t far away from levelling on the hour when he sliced across a right-footed shot from inside the area. The ball looped away from Edouard Mendy in the Chelsea goal, but just wide of the mark too.

Fabiański needed to make sharp saves from Mount and Werner as the visitors looked to kill the contest, but the Hammers kept themselves in it, and introduced Manuel Lanzini and Saïd Benrahma from the bench as they searched for an extra spark in the final third.

But their hopes were ended nine minutes from the end when Balbuena was given his marching orders. It was hard to see what else the Paraguay defender could have done as he cleared the ball, but unintentionally caught Chilwell on the calf as he followed through. Referee Chris Kavanagh was called across to look at the VAR monitor and he saw it as serious foul play.

West Ham United: Fabiański, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Diop, Coufal, Noble (Lanzini 69), Souček, Fredericks (Johnson 83), Fornals (Benrahma 69), Lingard, Bowen
Subs: Randolph (GK), Trott (GK), Alves, Coventry, Yarmolenko, Odubeko

Sent-off: Balbuena

Chelsea: Mendy, Rüdiger, Silva, Christensen, Azpilicueta (James 86), Kanté, Jorginho, Chilwell, Mount, Pulisic (Ziyech 74), Werner (Abraham 87)
Subs: Arrizabalaga (GK), Alonso, Zouma, Gilmour, Hudson-Odoi, Havertz

Goal: Werner 43

Booked: Werner, Christensen, Mendy, Kanté

Referee: Chris Kavanagh