Chelsea edge ahead in top-four race with win over West Ham
London, April 25 (IANS): Chelsea edged ahead in the race for the top four with a 1-0 victory over fellow Champions League hopefuls West Ham.
A rare goal from Timo Werner, only his second in the league since November, saw the Blues move three points clear of their fifth-placed hosts, reports DPA.
“I had a second chance and I think I have to score. But I have to come back slowly. One goal is enough,” a relieved Werner said.
“Maybe if I’d scored twice today it would be too much from the beginning. But, no, I’m joking. It’s really important for me and the team to be back on the scoresheet. Very happy we win this game, it’s important in the race for the top four.”
It was hardly Super League stuff from Thomas Tuchel’s side, but they got the job done ahead of a genuine European showdown against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
West Ham, who kicked off behind Chelsea on goal difference, had every reason to be affronted at the proposed breakaway league given that they were above four of the six clubs involved when it was announced.
They were feeling hard done by again when a late video review (VAR) decision saw defender Fabian Balbuena shown one of the most ludicrous red cards of the season.
Nevertheless, a favourable run-in means we may not have seen the last of David Moyes’ boys in the Champions League mix.
West Ham’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute when Tomas Soucek pounced on a loose ball from a free-kick and prodded goalwards.
His effort was blocked on the line by Cesar Azpilicueta with VAR confirming, despite West Ham’s pleas, that the Blues skipper had not handled the ball.
Instead, it was Chelsea who went in ahead at the break after Werner laid the ball off to Christian Pulisic and then raced into the box to receive Ben Chilwell’s low cross and convert from eight yards.
West Ham were still in the match until, with eight minutes left, Balbuena cleared the ball and caught Chilwell on the calf.
Not a single Chelsea player complained and play continued, but VAR intervened and referee Chris Kavanagh dutifully trotted to the monitor before sending the Paraguayan defender off.
It virtually ended the match as a contest although Blues substitute Tammy Abraham missed the chance to mark his late appearance with a goal when he headed over in stoppage-time.