Both managers picked questionable teams, the notable emissions being Fabregas of Chelsea, and Feghouli of West Ham, who was meant to be out injured. Here’s how the two teams set out:
Chelsea kicked off, Costa laying it off to Matic and getting the game underway. West Ham initially set off well, pressing Chelsea and getting on the ball early. With the long spells off possession however, Chelsea began to break in typical Conte style; Costa and Hazard warning the visitors early with a few strikes. Chelsea built on their early efforts and got a hold of the game, which in turn isolated Andy Carroll, and really killed off the West Ham attacking threat.
Around the 15th minute mark, Chelsea had a convincing penalty appeal turned down. Oscar picked up the ball on the edge of the box, flicking the ball past Reid and then running into the centre half’s arm. It was a contentious decision, and could have gone either way, but was luckily waved on by referee Anthony Taylor, but that could have been due to Oscar’s theatrics. After this, the game seemed to calm down.
The next major moment point came a good 15 minutes later, as the game’s brightest spark, Eden Hazard took the ball on the left, gliding past West Ham’s Andre Ayew. From there he danced inside and fired a shot at goal with the inside of his right foot, but it went narrowly wide.
Two minutes later, West Ham new boy and record signing Andre Ayew went down with a hamstring strain, which forced him off the pitch only 32 minutes into his debut. He’ll certainly be disappointed and Hammer’s will hope he’s back in action soon. Though as one new signing departed another came on, Turkish loanee Gokham Tore replaced him, occupying Slaven Bilic’s right wing.
Chelsea continued to put pressure on the Hammers as the first half petered out, the stats in this case reflecting the football. At half time the visitors had only mustered one shot, while the hosts 7 times that. Bilic’s side had been very poor in possession, consistently losing the ball, handing it over to Conte’s Chelsea. This led to them having very little attacking output, as well as giving away countless shots at their goal. Carroll’s isolation was proved by him not managing a single touch in Chelsea’s box at half time, the Hammers struggling to supply without the likes of Cresswell, Feghouli, and of course Dimitri Payet.
The second half began with Chelsea winning the ball back early, and Ivanovic thumping a long ball up to Costa. He took it down excellently, before West Ham’s Michail Antonio took the ball off him and surged out of the box. His run was cut short though, and the ball fell to Azpilicueta. Antonio tried to recover the ball but instead clumsily bumped into the left back, who went down on contact. The referee pointed to the spot quickly, and Antonio hung his head, booting the ball into row Z to relieve his frustrations. West Ham fans will hope that’s the last they see of their winger in at full back, as Slaven’s experiment is becoming evidently a failure. Hazard slammed the penalty home and put his side 1-0, minutes after half time.
Antonio’s error prompted Bilic to introduce Byram, a rather cruel end to the winger’s day but a necessary substitution. Conte’s men’s relentless attacking ensued, Hazard and Costa continuing to cause problems. Willian was nearly played in behind but for a timely interception from Masuaku, the Irons new boy.
In the 61st, Valencia loses the ball cheaply for the travelers and Willian is played in; he cuts in, then out, but his drilled shot is saved by Adrian. Minutes later Diego Costa slid in on the Hammer’s keeper, but Taylor didn’t deem the foul enough for a second yellow. Moments later, Bilic brought on his star man Dimitri Payet, much to the away fan’s delight.
By the 70th minute the East London side had still only had one shot, while their West London counterparts had tallied 14. There was really only one side in it at that point. West Ham won a promising free kick, which Dimitri Payet stood over of course, however his effort was hit into the wall and out for a corner. He delivers it in but it’s cleared out by a Chelsea defender and another corner is awarded. Again, Payet takes and the ball falls to Collins after a penalty appeal. He lashes his left foot at it in mid air, his volley flying into the left corner and sending the away end delirious. It was a highly undeserved goal and was harsh on the hosts. 1-1.
The goal gave the Irons life, and for the next few minutes they worried the Chelsea team with some testing balls up to Carroll, who made a nuisance of himself well. This caused Conte to dip into his bench and bring on Pedro for Willian. He then brings on two more players, Moses and Batshuayi. West Ham fans know them well, Batshuayi, a major target, and Moses had spent a year on loan at Upton Park the season before.
With the introductions West Ham looked in for a nervy final five minutes, and it wasn’t long before the home fans got what they deserved. In the 88th minute Diego Costa found himself with free space on the edge of the box. He got the ball out of his feet and drilled a low, hard shot into the far post. Adrian dove but couldn’t quite reach it, and Costa dashed over to the home fans as they cheered: ‘Diego, Diego, Diego!’ The Blues now led 2-1 and looked set to win. They played out the last few minutes of the game, shutting out any sparks the Hammers were trying to ignite. Referee Anthony Taylor blew his whistle for full time and Stamford Bridge roared. Antonio Conte cheers and exchanges well done’s with Bilic, and then quickly goes to congratulate his players.
A tough night for the travelling fans indeed as they watched a frankly dire performances from their beloved team, however a great night for Chelsea as they begin life under Conte in winning fashion. It was all Chelsea deserved and the performance will likely cause Bilic to ponder his 11 to face Bournemouth next week.