West Ham end run of eight games without a win with a 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge to dent Chelseas progress and ease pressure on their own Manuel Pellegrini

At the end of this victory West Hams players ran across the turf to hug their goalkeeper David Martin. Moments later Martin, a debutant here, could be seen climbing into the stand to embrace his father, Alvin, 20 years a West Ham player, and present on radio commentary duties.

It was a wonderful moment for both Martins and indeed for a West Ham team who broke a run of eight league games without a win with a fine, well-organised performance against a meek-looking Chelsea, with Declan Rice and Mark Noble fiercely disciplined in the centre.

Best of all was the air of unaccustomed defensive calm in the absence of the flailing Roberto. From a goalkeeper who made the simple act of catching the ball look like a code red nuclear emergency, to a 33-year-old at his 10th league club, West Ham had finally found a man to keep the ball out of their net.

Aaron Cresswells excellent goal just after half-time made the difference, the only goal of a first victory on this ground since 2002, when Frank Lampard and Jody Morris were in the Chelsea team.

Martin had few saves to make. Chelsea looked like a team running on fumes after a tough series of games. They were also lacking a cutting edge in the absence of Tammy Abraham. Not many teams can call on a World Cup-winning centre-forward as back-up. But then Olivier Giroud is not your usual World Cup-winning centre-forward.

This was Girouds first start since August. He looked well short of match sharpness in his 72 minutes on the pitch, during which the ball bounced off various parts of his body at a series of interesting angles and where he seemed for long periods to be playing in a pair of diving boots.

Lampard took the chance to rest NGolo Kant, Csar Azpilicueta and Willian from the start. Pedro returned to the side for the first time since August but barely registered as a physical presence before trotting off just past the hour.

For West Ham, Sbastien Haller was dropped, Michail Antonio playing a lone, raging bull role up front. Most importantly, Roberto was finally euthanised in favour of Martin, who drew a huge pointed cheer from the away fans the first time he caught the ball.

Chelsea simmered quietly for a while, with Mason Mount bright on the ball, but West Ham retreated profitably, sitting in a deep defensive tourniquet and inviting the home side to pick at the stitching.

The closest they came in the opening quarter was Reece Jamess deflected cross on 21 minutes that swirled dangerously and hit the outside of the post.

Antonio really should have scored soon afterwards but could only nod Robert Snodgrasss cross straight at Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea were increasingly muted, their attacks disrupted either by resolute defending or by the clumsy touches of their centre-forward. Towards half-time Martin produced an agile triple save from Mateo Kovacics shot and a couple of close rebounds, one from his own fumble. Englands Number One, sang the West Ham fans.

Giroud was then unable to finish right in front of goal, fooled by a last-ditch deflection on Jamess fine cross.

Lampard clenched his fists with frustration as the half-time whistle blew and two minutes after the break West Ham took the lead. It was a brilliant finish from Cresswell, who ran on to Pablo Fornals pass, cut inside James with chastening ease, then snapped a low, hard right-foot shot into the far corner, hit so sweetly it was always out of Arrizabalagas reach.

West Ham might have had another just before the hour, Arrizabalaga saving well from Victor Ogbonnas header direct from a corner.

Lampard sent for the slightly weary cavalry, throwing on Willian and Kant with 28 minutes remaining. A little later Callum Hudson-Odoi replaced Giroud as Chelsea finished the game pressing hard but with no real sense of incision.

West Hams defence was led with poise by the excellent Ogbonna; but this was always Martins game.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/us

 

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