West Ham 3-1 Chelsea: Ward-Prowse dazzles on East London debut

Whenever two London clubs face off against each other in the Premier League, there are always bound to be fireworks. In this particular instance, with both teams involved looking for their first win of the 2023/24 campaign, the Hammers against the Blues looked set to be an exciting matchup.

The story of West Ham’s summer has revolved around the incoming and outgoings at the club – and so far, they have looked underwhelming in the transfer market. The loss of Declan Rice’s talismanic presence cannot be understated, but the acquisitions of James Ward-Prowse and Edson Alvarez will go some way to filling the gap. It looks as though it’ll be a long season for the Hammers, although a third season of European football may be a welcome distraction.

Following a disastrous performance in the league last season that resulted in a 12th-place finish, Chelsea will not be playing matches on the continent – a rare occurrence for a club that has been crowned Champions League winners on two occasions in the last eleven years. Sunday’s visit to the London Stadium would provide Pochettino’s side the opportunity to express themselves on the pitch and to see if they really are up to the task of challenging for the Premier League title, given the lack of fixture congestion they will face in the run in. The West London club have spent big this summer already, and Blues fans would be looking to see a cameo appearance from new midfielder Moises Caicedo.

WHU: Areola; Coufal, Zouma, Aguerd, Emerson; Soucek, Ward-Prowse; Bowen, Paqueta, Benrahma; Antonio.

CHE: Sanchez; Disasi, Silva, Colwill; Gusto, Gallagher, Fernandez, Chilwell; Chukwuemeka, Sterling; Jackson.

The home fans were in full voice at kick-off, welcoming their Prague heroes back to their home ground for the first time this season – and there was a real sense of anticipation of what was to lie ahead.

Within the first four minutes, West Ham were able to try out their new party trick – also known as James Ward-Prowse taking corners. David Moyes’ side will find his set-piece delivery invaluable this season, along with his overall output from dead-ball scenarios. The delivery was high quality, but Chelsea were able to clear their lines.

However, only a moment later, another corner is sent in from the ex-Southampton star – and this time it is met powerfully by the head of Nayef Aguerd. An early 1-0 lead cued raucous celebrations among the home fans.

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Looking for an immediate response, Nicolas Jackson burst into the penalty area in an attempt to draw Chelsea level and the summer signing was clumsily brought down by Areola. The referee pointed to the spot – but VAR would come to the Hammers’ rescue, highlight a marginal offside in the buildup.

As the half wore on, Chelsea dominated the possession and the opportunities, but West Ham would still remain ahead on the most important statistic – the scoreline. That would be the case until the 27th minute, when Chukwuemeka scored the equaliser with an excellent curling finish from inside the box. The 19-year-old looked impressive against Liverpool last week, and seemed overjoyed to score his first goal in professional football.

Following the goal, West Ham’s initial confidence seemed to lower considerably and Chelsea were able to dictate the flow of the match. Just moments before half time, the Blues were granted the perfect chance to take the lead. With Sterling brought down just on the edge of the area, the referee pointed to the spot for the second time – and this time, VAR was in agreement with the decision.

Up stepped Enzo Fernandez, looking to take the opportunity to put Chelsea ahead – but his stuttered run-up did not deceive the West Ham ‘keeper, who saved the shot comfortably. The half would close out without too much further incident – bar a knee injury to Carney Chukwuemeka that would see him hobble off the pitch and be replaced by Mykhailo Mudryk.

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As the second half began, the opening exchanges took shape in much the same way as the latter part of the first half – with Chelsea dominating possession. Yet it was the hosts that would retake the lead in the 53rd minute, as a simple ball played over the top by Ward-Prowse into the path of Michail Antonio left the Jamaican striker one-on-one with Disasi. The Chelsea defender looked to have the situation under control, but a quick-fire drive between the Frenchman’s legs left the goalkeeper unsighted and saw the ball nestle in the back of the net.

Pochettino responded almost immediately with the introduction of Moises Caicedo for Ben Chilwell with 30 minutes to go, in an attempt to wrestle back something from the match – whilst also opting for a change in formation. The tactical adjustment would see Chelsea transition to a 4-3-3, with Colwill moving to left-back and Caicedo anchoring the midfield three. This adjustment would force David Moyes’ hand, as he opted to bring on Alvarez and Fornals to add more steel into West Ham’s midfield in preparation for a Chelsea onslaught. However, Aguerd’s second yellow card of the match and subsequent sending-off would force Moyes into a rethink, with the substitutions delayed and Obgonna brought on for Benrahma to keep the defensive structure intact.

The remainder of the match would be one-way traffic, with West Ham’s attacking threat nullified to just counter-attacking opportunities for Jarod Bowen – but Chelsea would still make hard work of breaking down the Hammers’ defence. As the game reached added time, the home side still retained their lead and the football became frantic.

Pushing for the equaliser, Chelsea left themselves exposed at the back and a clumsy tackle from the debutant Caicedo brought Emerson down in the West Ham penalty area. They say that things come in threes – so it was only right that the referee would point to the spot one more time before the tie reached its conclusion. Lucas Paqueta showed Enzo Fernandez how it’s done from the spot with his successful spot-kick conversion sending West Ham on their way to a 3-1 victory.

An entertaining affair from start to finish, Chelsea will be hoping for an upturn in fortunes when they host Luton Town at Stamford Bridge next Friday. For West Ham, they will be hoping this result can be a springboard for a much more positive league campaign than their last, but this optimism will be put to the test with a trip to early pace-setters Brighton next Saturday – the South Coast side have already scored eight goals in their opening two matches.

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