Javier Hernandez’s second-half strike cancelled out Cesar Azpilicueta’s opener as West Ham secure a valuable point with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, who paid heartfelt tribute to their late captain Ray Wilkins before and during the game, dominated the opening 45 minutes and were deservedly ahead when Azpilicueta tapped home from close range in the 36th minute.
Antonio Conte’s side’s dominance continued after the break but the second goal never came as West Ham stayed in the game, and they were rewarded when substitute Hernandez (73) snatched a point for the visitors.
The draw sees David Moyes’ side move six points clear of the relegation zone, while Chelsea are 10 points behind Tottenham in the race for fourth with six games remaining.
On what was an emotional afternoon at Stamford Bridge, Wilkins was remembered ahead of kick-off with a minute of applause as a seat in the dugout was draped in his No 8 shirt. Wilkins’ name rang around the ground once again in the eighth minute with both sets of fans singing the Chelsea legend’s name.
After a quiet opening, Chelsea had the ball in the back of the net in the 25th minute but Alvaro Morata was correctly flagged for offside after being played in by Eden Hazard.
Morata’s flick then drifted wide of the far post after yet more good work from Hazard before Willian fired inches wide from the edge of the penalty area, and the Brazil international was in again in the 35th minute after yet more sensational passing from Chelsea but Joe Hart raced off his line to make a brilliant block.
Chelsea’ dominance eventually told from the resultant corner and West Ham switched off as Morata headed Victor Moses’ cross back into the danger area where Azpilicueta was there tap home from inside the six-yard box.
Chelsea went in search for a second after the break and Willian had an immediate chance to double the hosts’ advantage but his shot fizzed past the far post.
Conte’s side thought they had their second when Morata swept home Willian’s cross, but again the offside flag was up to deny the Spain striker before Moses curled wide of the upright.
They were punished midway through the second-half as Gary Cahill’s poor defensive header fell to Marko Arnautovic and his cut back picked out Hernandez, who produced a sweet strike from just inside the area to beat Thibaut Courtois.
In a frantic final 10 minutes, Hart had to be at his best to produce two saves to deny Marcos Alonso and Olivier Giroud, while West Ham thought they should have had a penalty as N’Golo Kante’s last-ditch tackle sent Arnautovic to the floor, but referee Kevin Friend remained unmoved.
Hart put in a reminder to England manager Gareth Southgate’s with a fine performance at Stamford Bridge, which included some world-class saves.
In the first-half, the 30-year-old was quickly off his line to make a smart block to deny Willian before two saves in the final minutes helped the Hammers to what could be a crucial point in their bid to stay in the Premier League.
The first saw him show excellent reactions in tipping Alonso’s powerful drive over the crossbar before quick feet allowed him to tip Giroud’s goal-bound header around the post.
Slaven Bilic, who was watching the game for Sky Sports, said: “It was his best game I think. He kept West Ham in the game because in the second half, it looked more like Chelsea were going to score the second goal rather than West Ham would equalise.
Jamie Redknapp agreed, saying: “He’s probably given Gareth Southgate a problem he didn’t want to a certain extent becaue he is maybe looking at Jack Butland or Jordan Pickford and all of a sudden, Joe Hart has come into the equation. A nice problem, but one he might not have wanted.”
Chelsea are back in Premier League action next Saturday when they travel to St Mary’s to face Southampton.
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