Hammers pay the price for late switch-off as Chelsea snatch the points
Chelsea (0) 1 Pulisic 90
West Ham (0) 0
Chelsea ended their run of home defeats, as Christian Pulisic – fresh off the bench – turned in a Marcos Alonso cross to snatch all three points at the death.
It looked as if the Hammers had got away with fielding an under-strength side, especially after Jorginho had passed up the chance to make it 1-0 a few moments earlier with a feeble penalty.
But they seemed to take their collective foot off the peddle to allow the Blues one last chance, which was gleefully accepted.
Craig Dawson was red carded by ref Michael Oliver for hauling back sub Romelu Lukaku with just four minutes remaining in conceding the spot-kick – the official having been alerted for the need for red by VAR Paul Tierney.
But Jorginho’s stuttering run-up did not work this time and Lukasz Fabianski had all the time in the world to fall onto a weakly-struck shot.
The Italian’s blushes were spared soon after though.
That late jolt was a blow for the Irons, who thought they had done enough to claim a point to add to the three they claimed against Chelsea when the sides met in east London earlier in the season.
However, David Moyes’ starting line-up reflected the magnitude of the week ahead for them.
It’s not often a European semi-final comes along and the visit of Eintracht Frankfurt to the London Stadium will be a super-charged affair.
On the bench at the start were Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen – among the mainstays of the campaign and kept back for that battle ahead.
Playing Said Benrahma as a makeshift lone striker flanked by Pablo Fornals and Andriy Yarmolenko underlined the priorities, as did the rare start for skipper Mark Noble – who is on his farewell lap of honour with the club.
Rice and Bowen did come on in the second half to flex a few muscles but in the end, could not help get the Hammers over the line.
It had been a pleasant afternoon for the East Enders up until then. Irons fans at the old Shed End were determined to enjoy themselves. They gave Bubbles a hearty airing as well as the ‘Stick your blue flag...’ditty.
They taunted their hosts for the below-capacity attendance which is a consequence of sanctions against the owner. ‘Just like the old days, there’s nobody here,’ they chanted gleefully, as Arsenal fans had done in midweek.
There were also some joyful Que Seras about the impending Europa League visit to Germany for that last-four meeting in Frankfurt. These are fun days for the happy Irons.
For Chelsea, maybe less so, even if they have an FA Cup final to look forward to against Liverpool next month.
They at least halted a run of three straight home defeats which had sent everyone leafing record books for comparable calamities. They let in 11 in those defeats to Real Madrid, Brentford and Arsenal so this was a welcome return to parsimony for them.
The match itself wasn’t up to much, in truth.
Chelsea probed. But usually too slowly to catch out Dawson at the back until the very end. The Hammers sat in and waited for chances on the break.
The Blues did threaten to work up a head of steam at the start of the second half and Fabianski did well to readjust when N’Golo Kante’s shot deflected above him. The keeper then had to be watchful of a drive from distance from Trevoh Chalobah.
Timo Werner turned inside the area and clipped a shot into the side-netting and stabbed another half-chance straight at Fabianski. Marcos Alonso almost converted a low cross from Mason Mount.
Yarmolenko troubled Chelsea with a dart in from the right flank, but the Irons only offered a sporadic threat and could not claim they were seriously hard done by.
Blues: (3-4-1-2) Mendy – Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Chalobah – Loftus-Cheek (Ziyech 76), Kante, Jorginho, Alonso – Mount – Havertz (Lukaku 76), Werner (Pulisic 76). Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Niguez, Barkley, Kennedy, Sarr
Hammers: (3-4-2-1) Fabianski – Johnson, Dawson, Cresswell – Coufal, Soucek, Noble (Rice 62), Masuaku – Yarmolenko (Bowen 72), Fornals – Benrahma (Lanzini 78). Subs not used: Areola, Antonio, Vlasic, Fredericks, Kral, Alese