Tammy Abraham struck twice as patient Chelsea ground out a 3-0 win at home to West Ham to stop the rot in their final Premier League match before Christmas. (More Football News)
Talk of a title challenge from Frank Lampard's side had been stifled by consecutive defeats to Everton and Wolves, slipping out of the top four while champions Liverpool pulled clear.
But victory on Monday moved the Blues back up to fifth after Abraham settled nerves at Stamford Bridge with a clinching pair in the 78th and 80th minutes.
Chelsea had endured a long night after Thiago Silva nodded them into a 10th-minute lead, with West Ham - after a double against their London rivals last term - on the front foot but unable to forge a legal opening.
8 - Chelsea have scored more goals from corners than any other team in the Premier League this season (8), with three of these goals being headers from Mason Mount assists. Formula. pic.twitter.com/r8NyunL5yw— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 21, 2020
An offside flag denied Declan Rice a seventh-minute opener after he ran onto Aaron Cresswell's quick free-kick, rounded Edouard Mendy and slid in a superb finish from a tight angle.
Ben Chilwell went down just prior to that chance and soon hobbled off, but Silva swiftly lifted home spirits with a thumping header from Mason Mount's right-wing corner.
Both sides had further goals struck off in an even first half, with Cesar Azpilicueta unable to keep play alive before Abraham netted and Jared Bowen later fouling Silva, yet there should have been no stopping Timo Werner. He aimed a tame finish straight at Lukasz Fabianski following a rapid break.
West Ham controlled the second period but failed to break Chelsea down and were caught out in an untidy fashion befitting a game short on quality.
Werner's scuffed shot fell at the feet of Abraham, onside for a simple finish, and his second followed only 101 seconds later when the ball again dropped kindly as Fabianski leapt to block Christian Pulisic's close-range header.
The scoreline was already harsh on West Ham and might have been weighted further in Chelsea's favour had Werner's woes in front of goal not continued with a blast against the crossbar from a presentable position.
What does it mean? Abraham glee adds gloss
Ultimately, Chelsea's ability to put the ball in the net proved the difference as West Ham's second-half pressure failed to pay dividends.
The Blues struggled for long periods but had Abraham on hand to net his first brace since scoring a hat-trick against Wolves in September 2019.
Indeed, despite seeing more of the game played in their own third (28.3 per cent) than West Ham's (23.6 per cent), Chelsea could have run up a handsome tally had Werner also had his shooting boots, instead failing with four attempts.
Silva steel sets the stage
Silva's early header - Chelsea's eighth set-piece goal this season - looked to have set up a comfortable outing for the centre-back, yet the hosts could not initially build on that lead and he was instead kept busy at the other end.
The veteran made six clearances, three interceptions, a tackle and a block and crucially bought a foul from Bowen before he finished smartly in the first half.
Hammers packing no punch
Although West Ham recovered from a testing spell after the Chelsea opener, they lacked fluency in the final third and did not work Mendy once.
Said Benrahma came out of the side after flattering deceive on his first two starts - hitting the target with one of six shots at Leeds United before failing to muster an effort against Crystal Palace - but the Hammers did not have the same balance with Mark Noble their fourth attacking option.
Meanwhile, Sebastian Haller's spectacular volley at home to Palace was followed by a muddling display, completing just seven passes, running offside on three occasions, conceding three fouls and failing to make the most of a first half N'Golo Kante slip.
Key Opta Facts:
- Chelsea have lost just one of their last 13 home Premier League games, winning 10 and drawing two.
- David Moyes is without a win in any of his 16 Premier League visits to Stamford Bridge (D7 L9), the joint-highest tally of any manager never to win at a stadium in the competition, equalling his own record (16 games at Anfield).
- Timo Werner has failed to score in each of his last seven starts for Chelsea in all competitions, his longest run of starts without a goal in club competition since September 2016, between spells at Stuttgart and RB Leipzig (9).
- Mason Mount made his 50th Premier League appearance for Chelsea tonight, becoming the youngest English player (21y 346d) to reach this milestone for the club since John Terry in January 2002 (21y 36d).
Neither side have made the EFL Cup quarter-finals, meaning their next action is after Christmas, with Chelsea visiting struggling Arsenal on Saturday before West Ham welcome Brighton and Hove Albion the following day.
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