herald

Tuesday 23 October 2018

Conte gives up on Champions League after Irons draw

HAMMERED HOME:
West Ham striker Javier
Hernandez fires in his side’s
equalising goal against
Chelsea yesterday, much
to the horror of Blues boss
Antonio Conte Photo: Reuters
HAMMERED HOME: West Ham striker Javier Hernandez fires in his side’s equalising goal against Chelsea yesterday, much to the horror of Blues boss Antonio Conte Photo: Reuters

Antonio Conte felt Chelsea's 1-1 draw with West Ham summed up their frustrating season.

The Blues dominated the match at Stamford Bridge yesterday but only had Cesar Azpilicueta's first-half goal to show for it.

Alvaro Morata had two goals disallowed for offside while West Ham keeper Joe Hart suddenly began to display the sort of form which not so long ago made him England's undisputed number one.

And within three minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute Javier Hernandez swept in an equaliser to snatch a point for West Ham.

There was good news from an Irish point of view as recent international debutants Declan Rice and Josh Cullen shared a Premier League field following the latter's introduction as a substitute for Joao Mario late on with the game on a knife-edge.

The stuttering champions are now 10 points behind Tottenham and Blues boss Conte admits a top-four finish looks an increasingly forlorn hope.

"We must be realistic," he said. "You must win this game if you want to reach a target, in this case we want to reach a place in the Champions League.

Performances      

"This season we have struggled and this game describes our season. In many games you have good performances, you create chances, but if you are not clinical...

"How many times have I said we didn't take the chances? A lot of times, and then with one chance we conceded a goal."

Warm tributes were paid to former Blues skipper Ray Wilkins, who died during the week, and his old side took a deserved lead nine minutes before half-time.

Victor Moses' cross bounced around the West Ham area before falling to the feet of Azpilicueta, who could not miss from a couple of yards out.

Hart had already made a fine block to deny Willian, and in the second half he pulled off stunning saves to tip Marcos Alonso's fierce drive over and touch Olivier Giroud's header around a post.

And in the 73rd minute Marko Arnautovic collected Gary Cahill's weak headed clearance and cut the ball back for Hernandez to slot home.

"I thought we played against really slick Chelsea team in the first half, we gave away a poxy goal, so I was thrilled to get in at half-time only a goal down," said Hammers boss David Moyes, whose side are now six points above the relegation zone.

"Joe Hart showed today why he has so many caps and so many medals, so that will be good for him.

"Whoever plays Chelsea needs a good goalkeeper because they always make chances. We have more big teams to come and we will need our keeper to play well.

"Our position is not comfortable enough yet. From where we are I want to try and push us on."

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