|match review copied from www.theguardian.com|
Chelsea’s Diego Costa sinks West Ham to give Antonio Conte debut victory
Dominic Fifield at Stamford Bridge
Date Published Monday 15 August 2016 22.00 BST
Antonio Conte has his lift-off and, in the afterglow of a restorative victory, Chelsea feel like a club revived. The 10th permanent managerial appointment of Roman Abramovich’s ownership ended this ferocious derby leaping in delight on the touchline, high-fiving the fans then burying himself in the front row of supporters in the east stand, as this arena erupted all around to celebrate the winner. After all last season’s traumas, the locals will ignore the inevitable controversy which accompanied success. One game in and already Conte is adored.
It was Diego Costa, inevitably, whose contribution had Slaven Bilic and his crestfallen West Ham players enraged. The Spain forward had already been booked for berating the referee, Anthony Taylor, following the first-half non-award of a penalty when, midway through the second period, he attempted to close down Adrián, slid in and planted his left foot into the inside of the goalkeeper’s right calf. The official took his time before determining no second caution would be flashed, let alone the red card for which plenty of the visitors were calling. There was an inevitability thereafter about where this dramatic occasion would veer.
The game had entered its final minute, West Ham comfortable in the parity earned by James Collins’s fine finish, when possession was lost wastefully, the substitute Michy Batshuayi flicked on a punt forward and Costa collected just outside the penalty area. Both Collins and Winston Reid hesitated, allowing the striker time to take aim with the low shot fizzing through the clutter of centre-halves and into the far corner of Adrián’s net. The visitors sank to their knees in deflation, Bilic infuriated on the sidelines. “The winning start was vital,” said John Terry. “That is the fight and the commitment we want. We dug in for a London derby. That is great for the management.”
They have missed evenings like this in these parts. Chelsea had beaten only five teams in the Premier League here last season, surrendering to as many visitors en route, to offer some context to Conte’s immediate impact even with virtually identical personnel. N’Golo Kanté for Cesc Fàbregas was his only alteration to the side, then champions, who had begun the opening game of the last campaign under José Mourinho.
Yet Eden Hazard, who was to thump home the first goal of the Conte era from the penalty spot, was unrecognisable from the player who had taken over eight months to open his account last season. A “great talent” with a “fantastic attitude” was the Italian’s assessment. Just as significant was the fact that Costa, for all the trademark accompanying snarl, has his timing back.
Chelsea merited this success, even if it was squeezed out late and with the visitors, disrupted by the thigh injury which forced their debutant, André Ayew, from the fray, justifiably bemoaning the leniency of the officialdom. In truth, Bilic’s team had flattered to deceive during a bright opening quarter, the visitors lacking Dimitri Payet’s invention until the latter stages when that early urgency had long since been eclipsed and, eventually, overrun. Bilic was brutally honest in his post-match assessment. “Chelsea were much more aggressive, winning balls and second balls,” he said, “and their front four were on fire.”
Oscar argued that his early penalty appeal was justified, for all that he appeared to dangle his leg to seek out contact from Reid’s challenge. Branislav Ivanovic was denied and Hazard curled just wide, before West Ham eventually self-destructed. Michail Antonio, still a makeshift full-back despite the occasional successes he enjoyed in defence last year, collected on the edge of the area early in the second half and attempted to dribble away from danger, merely presenting the ball to César Azpilicueta in the process. The challenge which followed inside the box was panicked and born of desperation. Hazard converted with Conte’s celebrations as manic as those in the stands. Antonio was swiftly withdrawn.
“I liked the great intensity of my players,” said Conte. “We know we can improve through work but, today, it was very important to start with a victory. When a new manager arrives in a new club, he tries to bring with him his philosophy of football. We are working only one month together but tonight I saw the right intensity. It’s important to bring something different from last season.” This was a Chelsea side reminded of its underlying qualities.
It should have been more comfortable thereafter, the home side flooding forward with greater structure to their lineup and more fluency to their attacks, only for Adrián’s excellence to keep them at bay. But, while the lead was slender, the propensity to crack remained. Bilic was eventually forced to introduce Payet, the Frenchman’s fitness not quite up to scratch after his exertions at Euro 2016, and it was from his corner that West Ham equalised. Enner Valencia’s shot was blocked by Azpilicueta and Collins was quickest to react inside the box.
For 12 minutes thereafter Chelsea wondered if last year’s frailties might be exposed again. Then Costa, reprieved from his challenge, claimed the spoils and Conte had his springboard.
Daily Mail: MATCH FACTS, PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Courtois 6, Ivanovic 6.5, Cahill 6.5, Terry 6.5, Azpilicueta 6.5, Kante 7.5, Willian 7 (Pedro 80, 6), Oscar 6.5 (Batshuayi 85, 6), Matic 6.5, Hazard 8.5 (Moses 85, 6), Costa 7
Subs Not Used: Begovic, Fabregas, Loftus-Cheek, Aina
Booked: Kante, Costa, Azpilicueta, Pedro
Goals: Hazard 47 pen, Costa 89
West Ham (4-3-3): Adrian 7.5, Antonio 5 (Byram 52, 6), Collins 7.5, Reid 7, Masuaku 7, Kouyate 6.5, Nordtveit 6 (Payet 67, 6.5), Noble 6.5, Ayew (Tore 35, 6), Carroll 6.5, Valencia 6
Subs Not Used: Randolph, Obiang, Ogbonna, Oxford
Booked: Collins, Antonio
Goals: Collins 77
Ref: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)