Goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa burst the Hammers’ bubbles in east London as the Blues maintained our 10-point lead with March’s first set of fixtures completed.
The spotlight was on Antonio Conte’s men after our closest rivals Tottenham and Manchester City both won on Sunday, but our ability on the break always looked likely to prevail in this Monday night London derby, and it was from such an attack that Hazard calmly scored his 11th league goal of the season midway through the first half.
When Diego Costa netted his 17th early in the second period from a set-piece there was no way back for West Ham, who failed to mount anything like the threat they produced in our League Cup defeat at the former Olympic Stadium back in October, with their goal only coming in stoppage time at the end of the game.
Chelsea, unchanged from the win over Swansea, started this match solidly enough, dealing with the first two high balls up to Andy Carroll and winning a free-kick in the Hammers’ half when Hazard was fouled by Cheikhou Koyate, although that was floated too close to the keeper by Cesc Fabregas who had retained his place following his impressive showing the previous weekend.
When Sofiane Feghouli did get behind the Blues defence early on and crossed, Victor Moses won the header in front of Carroll who instead headed the crown of the player who was his team-mate on loan last season. The Hammers centre-forward was briefly poleaxed and needed treatment to his blooded nose. Carroll was the one change made by Slaven Bilic to his team, the natural replacement for the suspended Antonio, but he remained troubled by the facial injury as the game progressed.
A spell of Chelsea possession inside the home team’s half was broken when Aaron Cresswell cleared the ball high towards Carroll who nodded it out wide. When the cross came in we again coped, but a quarter of an hour into the game it was clear what the Hammers’ primary attacking tactic was to be.
Twice we were harshly penalised with free-kicks in central areas deep in our half but the east Londoners proved unable to do much with them. We were beyond the midway point in the first half of this London derby and neither keeper had yet to be called upon to save, although the Blues at our counter-attacking best were only just around the corner.
N’Golo Kante – who else – won the ball deep in our half initially and then it was the turn of Hazard and Pedro to take over. The Spaniard returned the Belgian’s pass up to him perfectly to beat the offside and Hazard had the pace to do the rest, although the finish was by no means an easy one. Keeping his cool he ran square and wide enough of Randolph to slot the ball inside the post. For the 10th Premier League game in a row, Chelsea had opened the scoring.
Both Hazard and Thibaut Courtois were subsequently on the end of some rough treatment from West Ham, but we could have made them pay further but for a couple of loose Pedro touches.
Manuel Lanzini had the home side’s best chance of the half with five minutes to go to the interval but skied it over the bar, shortly before some resolute rearguard action by the Irons kept the score at 1-0. Hazard’s cut back was behind Diego Costa but Moses was following up. Cresswell did well to block that shot but now it was Pedro’s turn. He drove the ball through a crowd but Randolph saved.
As in our previous game at home to Swansea, the Blues conceded a risky free-kick in added time but this time we did the business at the back. Gary Cahill had the measure of Carroll in the air so far. Indeed, we could have added a second goal on the break but Diego Costa was crowded out before he could shoot.
We only had to wait for four minutes of the second half to pass before our topscorer did find the net. The move that led to the corner that led to the goal was high quality. When the set-piece came over it flicked off the head of the defending Pedro Obiang at the near post and fell perfectly for Diego Costa to thigh it home. 2-0.
Fabregas was perhaps fortunate not to be whistled up for handball in our box soon after but in a flash we were streaming forward on the break again. Alonso tricked his way through and came close to adding number three.
The Irons steeled themselves around the hour mark for a spell of pressure on the Chelsea goal. Moses blocked a goalbound shot from Feghouli and Jose Fonte headed wide at the far post with our defence stretched.
Antonio Conte responded by bringing Nemanja Matic on for Pedro and switching to a 3-5-2 with Hazard and Diego Costa the furthest forward. Almost instantly the pair combined and it took a fine save to prevent Diego Costa notching his 50th Premier League goal with a shot on the spin.
Fabregas, after sustained Chelsea probing, drilled an 81st-minute shot over and the extra insurance of a third goal would have prevented a few nerves when Lanzini was left in space to cut the deficit with 90 seconds of added time left to play. Courtois was angry that what would have been our first clean sheet in five league outings had been let slip and we could have won this game more easily than we did, but there was still plenty to celebrate on the final whistle.
Next up for the Blues in the Premier League is another away game, up at Stoke, the first of 11 left in this competition, but before then it is back to the FA Cup – and Man United at the Bridge in seven days’ time.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses (Zouma 77), Kante, Fabregas (Matic 64), Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard (Willian 74).
Unused subs Begovic, Terry, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi.
Scorers Hazard 25, Diego Costa 50.
Booked Fabregas 45+2
West Ham (4-3-3): Randolph; Kouyate, Fonte, Reid (Byram 64), Cresswell; Noble (c) (Fernandes 77), Snodgrass, Obiang; Feghouli (Ayew 64), Carroll, Lanzini.
Unused subs Adrian, Collins, Masuaku, Calleri.
Scorer Lanzini 90+2
Referee Andre Marriner