Harsh red sums up West Ham woes, as Chelsea take top four race lead


A harsh Fabian Balbuena red card ended West Ham’s faint hopes of a comeback as Chelsea secured a vital three points in the race for top four.

With Liverpool’s disappointing draw with Newcastle earlier on, the clash between West Ham and Chelsea presented an opportunity to assume sole control of fourth spot.

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Handed an increasingly rare start, Timo Werner spurned an early chance when scooping over the bar from inside the area.

The Hammers were content to bide their time and counter, with Ryan Fredericks and Jesse Lingard posing a threat down the left.

Chelsea were dominating the possession stakes, racking up 80 percent mid-way through the first-half. As the half-hour mark approached, however, the visitors were struggling to craft clear-cut opportunities.

For as much control as Chelsea gained, West Ham would always be a threat from set pieces. A free-kick into the box was only half cleared.

The resulting shot struck Cesar Azpilicueta as West Ham voices asked for a handball, though their appeals ultimately fell on deaf ears.

Chelsea’s persistence finally paid off as half-time neared and owed much to the pinpoint precision of Ben Chilwell’s cut-back.

Werner showed strength and tenacity to hold off a defender before playing in Jorginho. He fed Chilwell who bisected a pair of Hammers with a divine pass, allowing Werner to complete the move with a simple finish.

The lively German should’ve bagged a brace soon after the interval, but had to settle for a place on the miss of the season shortlist.

Lukasz Fabianski could only palm the ball back into the danger area after Mason Mount stung his palms from distance.

With the goal seemingly at his mercy, Werner scuffed a left-footed shot comfortably wide from barely three-yards out.

West Ham sought to hit back immediately and couldn’t have hoped for a chance to fall to anyone other than Lingard.

Latching on to a bouncing ball, the red-hot forward fired a looping volley that dipped agonisingly wide.

But it was the Blues who remained likeliest to notch the game’s next goal, with Werner and Mount again forcing smart stops from Fabianski.

Any faint hopes of a Hammers comeback were dealt a major blow when Fabian Balbuena was given his marching orders.

The defender appeared more than a touch unlucky after catching Chilwell’s calf with the follow-through of his clearance. Nevertheless, VAR deemed it worthy of a red card despite the lack of intent and incidental nature of contact.

Down a man, West Ham toiled but struggled to make an impression as the clock wound down.

The Blues successfully managed the clock in the latter stages to move three points clear in fourth position.