West Ham Appoint David Moyes As Manager For Second Time

David Moyes, Southampton

 

David Moyes has been appointed as West Ham’s manager and will return for a second spell at the club.

The 55-year-old Scot has signed an 18-month deal and is expected to take charge of the New Year’s Day home game against Bournemouth at London Stadium.

His appointment follows Manuel Pellegrini’s sack after Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat by Leicester.

Details Later.

West Ham Sack Manager Manuel Pellegrini After Leicester Defeat

West Ham United’s Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini gestures from the touchline during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Leicester City at The London Stadium, in east London on December 28, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

 

West Ham sacked manager Manuel Pellegrini after Saturday’s 2-1 home defeat to Leicester left the Hammers just one point above the Premier League’s relegation zone.

A run of just two wins in 14 games, including seven defeats in their last nine league matches, saw patience run out with the 66-year-old former Real Madrid and Manchester City boss.

“It is with great disappointment that we’ve had to make this decision,” West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan said in a club statement.

“Manuel is a gentleman and it has been a real pleasure to work with someone of his calibre.

“However, it has become clear that a change is required to get the club back on track in line with our ambitions this season. We felt it was necessary to act now in order to give the new manager as much time as possible to try and achieve that goal.

“It has become clear that a change is required to get the club back on track in line with our ambitions this season.”

West Ham overcame a difficult start to finish 10th in Pellegrini’s first season in charge.

However, the Chilean has failed to provide enough of a return on a significant transfer spend over the past 18 months with over £100 million ($130 million) splashed on Felipe Anderson, Sebastien Haller, Pablo Fornals, Andriy Yarmolenko, and Issa Diop.

AFP

Leicester Fight Back To Beat West Ham

Leicester City’s English midfielder James Maddison (L) takes a shot but doesn’t score during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Leicester City at The London Stadium, in east London on December 28, 2019. Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

A much-changed Leicester bounced back from a Boxing Day thrashing by Liverpool to beat West Ham 2-1 on Saturday as Tottenham’s charge towards the Premier League top four stalled in a 2-2 draw at Norwich.

Leicester had taken just one point from their previous three games to realistically end an unlikely title challenge, but remain second best in the table behind runaway leaders Liverpool after ending a three-game winless run.

Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to the side outclassed by the European champions two days ago with Jamie Vardy among those missing due to the birth of his daughter.

Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray made the most of their chance for a rare Premier League start by scoring either side of half-time, although Gray also saw an early penalty saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

The Foxes move 10 points behind Liverpool having played two games more and stretch their lead over Manchester City in second to four points.

Pablo Fornals levelled for the Hammers just before half-time, but they remain just one point above the relegation zone after a seventh defeat in nine games.

AFP

Arsenal Beat West Ham To End Worst Winless Run Since 1977

Arsenal’s German midfielder Mesut Ozil (C) watches his shot go wide during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Arsenal at The London Stadium, in east London on December 9, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Arsenal caretaker manager Freddie Ljungberg believes a weight has been lifted off his players’ shoulders after a three-goal blitz in nine second-half minutes beat West Ham 3-1 on Monday to end the Gunners’ worst winless run in 42 years.

Another miserable night for the Swede seemed in store when the visitors trailed at half-time to Angelo Ogbonna’s deflected header.

However, Arsenal suddenly sparked into life after Gabriel Martinelli scored his first Premier League goal as Nicolas Pepe finally started to deliver on his club record £72 million fee by curling home a brilliant second, before crossing for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to secure all three points.

“It means so much for the players. They have been living under enormous pressure and you see it in their performances,” said Ljungberg.

“You can see the players have been a bit low and you see in the dressing room the relief and how happy they are.”

A first win in 10 games in all competitions lifts Arsenal up to ninth and cuts the gap on fourth-placed Chelsea to seven points in the battle for Champions League qualification next season.

Ljungberg reacted to taking just one point from his opening two games in temporary charge against lowly Norwich and Brighton by making five changes with Martinelli and Pepe among those coming into the side.

Pepe’s inability to make an impact has been one of the major reasons for Arsenal’s struggles, but the Ivorian looked a new player after curling home his first Premier League goal from open play 24 minutes from time.

“Nicolas is an amazing football player, but it is not easy to come from the French league into the Premier League and adjust straight away,” added Ljungberg.

“It was an amazing goal and he’ll get better and better.”

 West Ham ‘dominated for 60 minutes’ 

Not much had improved in Ljungberg’s first two games since replacing the sacked Unai Emery and it was the same tame and lifeless Arsenal for the first hour against a West Ham side that have won just once in their last 11 games.

“I think we dominated the game for 60 minutes and after that in 10 minutes we lose the game,” said West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini, who is under increasing pressure as his side sit just one point above the relegation zone.

Another home defeat means the Hammers have taken just one point from their last five games at the London Stadium and the home side were booed off at full-time.

“You understand the boos because the last five games we played here we didn’t win,” added Pellegrini. “You cannot concede three goals in every game.”

In a first half of precious little good football it was fitting the opener arrived in scrappy fashion as Ogbonna’s attempted header came off his shoulder and deflected off Martinelli to wrong-foot Bernd Leno in the Arsenal goal.

But one moment changed the course of the game when Sead Kolasinac burst down the left and crossed low for Martinelli to slot home his eighth goal of the season after impressing in the League Cup and Europa League.

Suddenly the confidence which Emery and Ljungberg bemoaned had drained away from their players in recent times was restored, none more so than in Pepe, who cut inside onto his favoured left foot and curled into the top corner.

Pepe then turned provider for Aubameyang to slide in for his 13th goal of the campaign.

“At half-time, Freddie told us to play with a higher tempo,” said Aubameyang.

“We have the quality in the squad, and if we believe in ourselves, we can go forward and win games. We will take this second half as an example for the rest of the season.”

AFP

West Ham Defeat Chelsea At Stamford Bridge

Chelsea’s US midfielder Christian Pulisic (CL) vies with West Ham United’s English defender Ryan Fredericks (CR) during the English Premier League football match at Stamford Bridge in London on November 30, 2019. Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

 

Aaron Cresswell eased the pressure on Manuel Pellegrini as the West Ham defender fired his struggling side to a shock 1-0 win at Chelsea on Saturday.

Pellegrini was reportedly given two games to save his job this week, but the Hammers boss might have earned much-needed breathing space with a first win in eight Premier League games.

It was West Ham’s first victory at Stamford Bridge in 14 visits dating back to 2002.

The Hammers had lost their last three matches, increasing the speculation that former Manchester City manager Pellegrini was set for the sack.

Now Pellegrini goes into Wednesday’s trip to Wolves with renewed hope of avoiding the axe after West Ham moved six points clear of the relegation zone.

Inflicting a second successive Premier League defeat on Chelsea made the hard-fought result even sweeter for West Ham fans.

After last weekend’s loss at Manchester City, fourth-placed Chelsea’s momentum has stalled a little following one of the least coherent displays of Frank Lampard’s maiden season in charge.

West Ham’s slump has coincided with the poor form of reserve keeper Roberto following an injury to first-choice Lukasz Fabianski.

Pellegrini finally lost patience with Roberto after he conceded nine goals in his last three games, handing 33-year-old David Martin his debut after his pre-season move from Millwall.

It proved a successful gamble and Martin cried tears of joy after keeping a clean-sheet on his first top-flight appearance.

When Martin was called into action for the first time, his save from Mason Mount’s low drive drew extra loud cheers from the West Hams crammed into the Shed End behind him.

Chelsea were dominating possession without finding the final touch needed to break down West Ham’s massed defence as Christian Pulisic headed Pedro’s cross wastefully over.

Martin then misjudged Reece James’ deflected cross and watched in panic as it clanged off the near post, with the resulting corner headed woefully wide by Kurt Zouma.

– Lack of cutting edge –

Despite Chelsea’s territorial superiority, they remained creaky at the back.

No top-10 team had conceded more than the 19 goals Chelsea had allowed heading into the latest round of fixtures.

Pellegrini’s men almost took advantage of the holes in Chelsea’s defence when Robert Snodgrass swung over a cross and Michail Antonio found space for a diving header that Kepa Arrizabalaga pushed away at full stretch.

Martin fumbled Mateo Kovacic’s long-range effort before recovering quickly to block Olivier Giroud’s attempt to knock in the rebound.

With Tammy Abraham ruled out with a hip injury suffered in the midweek Champions League draw at Valencia, Giroud was making his first start since August 18.

But the France striker was totally anonymous for long periods and Chelsea lacked a cutting edge as a result.

When James whipped over a teasing cross, Giroud arrived too late to make contact and Pulisic, just behind him, scuffed it wide to cap a frustrating half for Chelsea.

There was even more angst for Chelsea after the interval as a penalty appeal for handball against West Ham’s Fabian Balbuena was turned down before the visitors snatched the lead in the 48th minute.

Felipe Anderson and Pablo Fornals worked the ball wide to Cresswell on the edge of the Chelsea area and the left-back tricked James with a clever cut-back before curling a fine finish into the far corner.

Chelsea’s defensive vulnerability had been laid bare and the Hammers nearly capitalised again when Balbuena’s header from Snodgrass’s corner was saved by Kepa.

As Chelsea ran out of ideas, Antonio thought he had doubled West Ham’s lead when he bundled in Snodgrass’s cross, but VAR disallowed the goal for handball by the forward.

It didn’t matter as West Ham held firm in the closing stages to win for the first time since beating Manchester United on September 22.

AFP

Mourinho Wins First Match As Tottenham Manager

 

 

Jose Mourinho delivered Tottenham’s first away win in the Premier League since January in his first game in charge with a 3-2 win at West Ham to catapult Spurs up to sixth.

Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and Harry Kane got the goals as Mourinho made an instant impact after replacing the sacked Mauricio Pochettino on Wednesday.

A much-needed three points will help to endear Mourinho to a skeptical Spurs support who were sad to see Pochettino’s five-and-a-half year spell in charge of the club end just six months after leading the club to a first-ever Champions League final.

There was no love lost between Mourinho’s Chelsea sides and Tottenham in the past, but his arrival had the desired impact for Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, even if a West Ham team devoid of confidence made for perfect opponents.

Mourinho followed Pochettino’s example in leaving out Christan Eriksen with the Dane one of a number of Spurs players into the final months of his contract and showing no signs of agreeing a new deal.

“We have to make the right decision for the club,” Mourinho said on Eriksen’s future before kick-off, but his decision to field a front four of Dele Alli with Son, Moura and Kane worked.

Kane had smashed the ball past beleaguered West Ham goalkeeper Roberto after just three minutes from Alli’s pass but was denied by the offside flag.

An injury to first-choice stopper Lukasz Fabianski has coincided with a run of eight games without a win for West Ham with a string of errors from Roberto spreading a lack of confidence throughout the team.

The Spaniard could have done better when Tottenham did open the scoring nine minutes before half-time when another through ball from Alli found Son, whose shot had too much power for the hapless ‘keeper.

However, Roberto was blameless for Spurs’ second seven minutes later when a lovely flick from Alli sent Son racing down the left and his inch-perfect cross was met by Moura at the back post.

The same two players should have combined for the visitors’ third just two minutes into the second half when Son sent Moura clean through on goal, but the Brazilian dragged his shot wide to the despair of Mourinho, who sank to his knees on the touchline.

Tottenham’s celebrations were only put on hold for another two minutes as Serge Aurier’s cross picked out Kane to head home and become the third-highest goalscorer in Spurs’ history with 175.

The England captain was furious at himself for not adding another on the hour mark as he dallied with just Roberto to beat and was dispossessed by a last-ditch challenge from Issa Diop.

Michail Antonio pulled a goal back for the hosts 17 minutes from time, but by the time Angelo Ogbonna scored West Ham’s second six minutes into stoppage time it was too little, too late.

West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini now waits to see if he faces a similar fate to Pochettino.

The Hammers were expected to challenge for European qualification in the Chilean’s second season but instead are 16th and in danger of falling even closer towards the relegation zone by the end of the weekend.

West Ham Extend Away-Day Blues For Pitiful Man Utd

West Ham United’s Ukrainian striker Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates with teammates after scoring his team’s first goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Manchester United at The London Stadium, in east London on September 22, 2019.
Ian KINGTON / AFP

 

West Ham inflicted more away-day pain on a poor Manchester United side on Sunday, lifting themselves to fourth in the Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 win at the London Stadium.

Andriy Yarmolenko’s goal shortly before half-time and a wonderful late Aaron Cresswell free-kick extended United’s barren run on the road.

United, who started the season by thumping Chelsea 4-0, have lost twice already in their opening six league games and lie seventh, without an away win in any competition since March.

Injury-hit United were without midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Anthony Martial and huffed and puffed but failed to break down their dogged opponents.

West Ham are riding high under Manuel Pellegrini, unbeaten since a 5-0 drubbing in the first match of the season and this victory followed a home win last season against United at the London Stadium.

But it was a chastening day for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men, just a day after champions Manchester City came close to matching United’s Premier League record for margin of victory — 9-0 against Ipswich in 1995.

Solskjaer played the same side that triumphed against Leicester last week while Pablo Fornals came in for the injured Manuel Lanzini for the home side.

Both sides were cagey at the start of the match, with neither side able to create clear-cut chances.

West Ham looked the more inventive team when they broke forward while United looked ponderous in attack and lacking in ideas, with Marcus Rashford isolated up front.

The match was drifting towards the interval before Felipe Anderson and Yarmolenko combined to sap United’s confidence with a goal in the 44th minute.

United went close to an equaliser early in the second half as the rain came down in London, with Juan Mata missing from close range after an Andreas Pereira cross.

Already short of options up front and missing creators in midfield, they lost Rashford just before the hour mark, replaced by the out-of-form Jesse Lingard.

West Ham went close to doubling their lead shortly afterwards but David de Gea got down low to keep out an Anderson shot from a tight angle.

United upped the pressure and West Ham had goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski to thank for keeping out a Harry Maguire strike from close range.

But West Ham continued to look more dangerous on the break and made United pay when Ashley Young brought down Mark Noble on the edge of the penalty area.

De Gea was a bystander as Cresswell curled a free-kick into the top right-hand corner to add to United’s pain.

Burnley, Brighton Enjoy Strong Starts As City Rout West Ham

Burnley’s English striker Ashley Barnes (C) celebrates scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Southampton at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on August 10, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP.

 

 

Manchester City opened the defence of their Premier League title in ominous fashion on Saturday as Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 thrashing of West Ham, while Burnley and Brighton enjoyed impressive wins.

However, the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR) for the first time in the Premier League proved Saturday’s big talking point with a series of reviews and delays at the London Stadium.

City had a goal ruled out for the tightest of offside calls against Sterling and Sergio Aguero was afforded the chance to retake a penalty by VAR after seeing his first attempt saved.

“Only what I wish is that VAR doesn’t make mistakes please,” said City boss Pep Guardiola, who felt that his side’s disallowed goal should have stood.

Liverpool’s 4-1 victory over Norwich on Friday sent the message to City that they are up for another titanic title battle after missing out by just one point last season.

But in a worrying sign for those trying to stop Guardiola’s men romping to a third straight league crown, City cruised to victory despite being far from their best before half-time.

The visitors led at the break thanks to Gabriel Jesus’ opener, but moved through the gears after the break as Sterling scored twice in 14 minutes.

Aguero then denied the England international the chance to seal his hat-trick from the spot, before the 24-year-old eventually grabbed his third goal of the game in stoppage time.

“Perfect start? It terms of the result yes, in terms of the performance no,” said the ever-demanding Guardiola. “In the first-half we were sloppy with our passes.”

– Potter’s perfect start –

Brighton’s new manager Graham Potter enjoyed a dream start to his time in charge as the Seagulls beat last season’s FA Cup finalists Watford 3-0 at Vicarage Road.

Abdoulaye Doucoure’s own goal gave the visitors a half-time lead before Florin Andone and Neil Maupay on his debut sealed a highly impressive three points for a Brighton side that narrowly escaped relegation last season.

Burnley were also 3-0 winners at Turf Moor as an Ashley Barnes double and Johann Gudmundsson’s strike condemned Southampton to a heavy defeat.

Crystal Palace’s wantaway star Wilfried Zaha put his grievances with the club’s hierarchy behind him to make an appearance as a second-half substitute against Everton, but neither side could break the deadlock in a 0-0 draw.

Zaha could have lined up for the visitors at Selhurst Park as Palace ignored a transfer request from the Ivorian to reject two bids from the Toffees after interest from Arsenal earlier in the transfer window cooled.

Everton were one of the biggest spenders in the window with seven new signings, but were forced to hang on for a point when Morgan Schneiderlin was sent-off 14 minutes from time for a second yellow card.

Sheffield United grabbed a late point away to Bournemouth on their return to the top flight after a 13-year absence.

Chris Mepham put the Cherries in front just after the hour mark on the south coast, but Billy Sharp’s strike two minutes from time salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Blades.

Last season’s Champions League finalists Tottenham begin their campaign later on Saturday at home to Aston Villa.

AFP

Man City Begin Title Defence At West Ham, Man Utd Open At Home To Chelsea

 

Champions Manchester City begin the defence of their Premier League title away at West Ham, while Manchester United will host Chelsea in a blockbuster meeting to start the campaign after next season’s fixtures were revealed on Thursday.

City will be confident of a fruitful start after scoring four times in each of their last three visits to the London Stadium, but face a tougher clash when Champions League finalists Tottenham Hotspur visit the Etihad on the second weekend of the season.

Runners-up and Champions League winners Liverpool begin with a home game to newly-promoted Norwich.

Last season’s top two meet at Anfield on November 9 with the return at the Etihad scheduled for April 4, subject to TV confirmation.

Chelsea will begin life without the influential Eden Hazard at Old Trafford with United in need of a fast start after a dismal end to last season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

On their return to the top-flight Aston Villa host Spurs, whilst Sheffield United are away at Bournemouth.

City only edged Liverpool by a point in last season’s thrilling duel but would appear to have the easier run-in this time round should the title go down to the wire once more.

Pep Guardiola’s men do not face any teams who finished in the top half last season in their final six matches, following the visit of Liverpool.

In contrast, the European champions travel to Arsenal and host Chelsea before a visit to Newcastle in their final three games of the campaign.

For the first time in Premier League history, the clubs will get a short mid-season break in February.

Over a two-week period, there will be only five matches on one weekend, with the other five games taking place the following weekend, ensuring that each team gets one week off.

AFP

Tottenham Suffer First Defeat To West Ham At New Stadium

West Ham United’s Polish goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (centre left) and West Ham United’s Scottish midfielder Robert Snodgrass (centre right) celebrate on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on April 27, 2019. West Ham won the game 1-0.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Tottenham was beaten for the first time at their new stadium as Michail Antonio fired West Ham to a surprise 1-0 victory over their London rivals on Saturday.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side had won all four matches at their new £1 billion Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

But Antonio’s clinical second-half strike ended that run as the West Ham winger became the first visiting player to score in the plush arena.

READ ALSO: Guardiola Targets History As City’s Treble Chase Heats Up

Third-placed Tottenham’s second defeat in their last three Premier League games put a dent in their bid to finish in the top four.

They hold a three-point lead over fourth-placed Chelsea and are four points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal, with both teams in action on Sunday.

It was a frustrating warm-up for Tottenham’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Ajax in north London on Tuesday.

Pochettino had insisted Tottenham’s first European semi-final since the 1984 UEFA Cup was less significant than their top four challenge.

But the Tottenham manager’s team selection told a different story.

Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen was absent with a reported injury as Pochettino made four changes, including resting Kieran Tripper, Victor Wanyama and Fernando Llorente.

Pochettino revealed this week that injured striker Harry Kane hopes to be fit for the Champions League final if Tottenham make it and the England captain was watching from the stands as his club’s unbeaten start in the new stadium came to an end.

Growing In Confidence

With Son Heung-min suspended for the Ajax first leg, Pochettino had no reason to rest South Korea forward against the Hammers and he was swiftly into the action as he raced away for a shot that cleared the bar.

Son should have done better on that occasion and he fluffed his lines again with a low shot that was too close to Hammers keeper Lukasz Fabianski after Dele Alli’s pass gave him a clear sight of goal.

West Ham finally broke out of their own half when Ryan Fredericks tested Hugo Lloris from long-range, but Tottenham remained on top as Lucas Moura drilled just wide of the far post.

A flowing Tottenham move unlocked the West Ham defence and Son’s blocked effort dropped perfectly for Christian Eriksen, but the Dane smashed his close-range shot straight at Fabianski.

Tottenham found it tougher to maintain any momentum in the second half, with Son’s unsuccessful penalty appeal, after being bundled over by Arthur Masuaku, made more in hope than expectation.

Manuel Pellegrini’s team were growing in confidence and they ended Tottenham’s unblemished record in their new arena in the 67th minute.

Marko Arnautovic chipped a superb pass towards Antonio and the winger controlled on his chest in the six-yard box before blasting a powerful finish past Lloris.

Celebrating with a bizarre bouncing motion, Antonio staged a joyous jig in front of the West Ham fans and he almost had them on their feet again in the closing minutes when his shot was pushed over by Lloris.

Tottenham looked tired in the closing stages, but they could have denied West Ham their first away win of 2019 when Vincent Janssen’s stoppage-time header was cleared off the line by Fabian Balbuena.

AFP

Pogba Scores Brace To Hand Man United Tense Victory Over West Ham

 

Two converted penalties by Paul Pogba on Saturday gave Manchester United a tense victory against an excellent West Ham side. 

Pogba scored his 12th Premier League goal of the season’s campaign against the Hammers on Saturday after he successfully converted a first-half penalty kick.

Robert Snodgrass had brought down Juan Mata in the box at about the 18th minute, and Pogba did justice to the free shot, to give the Red Devils an early lead.

The French International went on to score his brace of the game in the 80th minute, again from the penalty spot.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s boys would go on to win the match 2-1, earning a valuable three points to keep hopes alive for a spot in the top-four.

READ ALSO: EPL: Moura’s Hat-Trick Lifts Spurs Into Third Place

Below are the English Premier League results on Saturday:

Brighton 0 Bournemouth 5 (Gosling 33, Fraser 55, Brooks 74, Wilson 82, Stanislas 90+2)

Burnley 2 (Wood 31, 90+2) Cardiff 0

Fulham 2 (Cairney 46, Babel 69) Everton 0

Southampton 3 (Redmond 2, 30, Long 71) Wolves 1 (Boly 28)

Tottenham 4 (Wanyama 24, Lucas Moura 27, 87, 90+3) Huddersfield 0

Manchester United 2 (Pogba 19-pen, 80-pen) West Ham 1 (Anderson 49)

Playing Sunday

Crystal Palace v Manchester City (1305 GMT), Liverpool v Chelsea (1530 GMT)

Monday

Watford v Arsenal (1900 GMT)

Played Friday

Leicester 0 Newcastle 1 (Perez 32)

Hazard Too Good For West Ham As Chelsea Go Third

Chelsea’s Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring their second goal against West Ham United. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Eden Hazard’s magnificent double earned Chelsea a 2-0 win over West Ham on Monday and moved Maurizio Sarri’s men up to third in the Premier League.

Reports continue to link Hazard with a summer move to Real Madrid with the Belgian refusing to extend his contract at Stamford Bridge beyond 2020.

And he underlined once more how much Chelsea will miss their number 10 should he depart for the Spanish capital with a dazzling display, capped by a sensational solo goal to open the scoring.

Hazard collected the ball just inside the West Ham half, but strode forward jinking past three defenders before coolly slotting past Lukasz Fabianski after 24 minutes.

“It was something special,” Hazard told Sky Sports. “I took the ball and then I tried to move forward. In the box it was hard for the defender to challenge me because if he touches me it could be a penalty.

“I was maybe a little lucky with the shot. I wanted to shoot quickly. When I saw the ball in the net I was just so happy. I am small so it is good when I play against tall players as it’s very hard for them to change direction.”

The hosts and Hazard had to wait until stoppage time to secure the three points as this time he controlled inside the box and fired into the far corner for his 19th goal of the season.

Powerless to stop the Belgian captain putting their team to the sword, West Ham fans responded with cries of “Eden Hazard, he’s off to Madrid”. But Hazard, insisted nothing has been decided on his future.

“They are wrong,” he added on the travelling support’s response. “For now I am just focusing on Chelsea until the end of the season.

“I want to finish in the top four and do well in the Europa League. We still have a lot to do and then we will see.”

The victory moves Chelsea two points clear of Tottenham and three ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal in the race for a top-four finish, but both their London rivals and Manchester United — five points back in sixth — now have a game in hand on Sarri’s men.

Higuain fails to fire

Chelsea also have to travel to Liverpool and United in their final five games and much will depend on Hazard with Gonzalo Higuain showing little sign of sparking his loan spell into life.

The Argentine striker stated his desire before kick-off to make his move permanent should Chelsea successfully appeal a one-year transfer ban imposed by FIFA, but he had another night to forget in front of goal.

Higuain’s lack of confidence was in evidence as he passed up the chance to head home N’Golo Kante’s cross and instead saw his shot deflected behind after taking a touch to control on his chest.

Having failed to muster a single attack of note before the break, the visitors sparked into life in the second half and could have made Chelsea pay for their failure to kill the game off.

Marko Arnautovic’s clever cut-back picked out the unmarked Manuel Lanzini at the edge of the box, but his shot was too close to Kepa Arrizabalaga before Aaron Cresswell then arrowed a shot inches wide of the far post.

The majority of the chances continued to come at the other end, though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek lifted his effort into the grateful arms of Fabianski with just the Polish goalkeeper to beat as Sarri grew increasingly frustrated on the sidelines.

The Italian was finally able to relax in stoppage time when Hazard was given acres of space to control Ross Barkley’s pass and produced the finish to match his performance.

AFP