This was an absolutely crucial weekend in the race for a Champions League place. Arsenal had gone to Swansea and picked up a win. With no European distractions, a strong end to the season is very possible. Tottenham came up against a Fulham side who have picked up a little form of late. We faced a West Ham side missing a number of players and who are usually dreadful on the road; nothing less than 3 points would do.
Branislav Ivanovic didn’t feature for a third game in a row. Lampard took the place of John Obi Mikel. Victor Moses came in to the side for Oscar, who has played an incredible 62 games since the start of the Olympics in July.
We made a very good start to the game, with Eden Hazard in some truly exceptional form right now. With Juan Mata in close vicinity, the pair constantly found each in tight spaces, probing for openings. After Ba had skewed a one-on-one early on, Lampard headed us in front with his 200th goal for the club. This puts him just three goals away from overtaking Bobby Tambling as the top goalscorer in the club’s history.
The fans of his former club booed him throughout. How stupid they must feel seeing Lampard turn out this good after the nepotism jibes that greeted his introduction to the West Ham side all those years ago. Unsurprisingly, it was Hazard’s assist. There was another clear chance to increase the lead when Ba missed another one-on-one after some good work from Moses. Besides some early difficulties handling Andy Carroll in the air, West Ham were desperately missing Mark Noble, Kevin Nolan and Joe Cole. Mohamed Diame briefly threatened with some typically storming runs through the holes in a midfield missing the hugely crucial Mikel. His half-time withdrawal removed one of West Ham’s few avenues to an equaliser.
The second half started with excellent tempo as the players were made aware of Tottenham losing at home to Fulham. Hazard received a chipped pass from Mata, glided past several players and fired in the second goal with his left foot. This is becoming a regular occurrence. He now has several goals with his weaker foot this season, including the thunderbolts against Aston Villa and Sparta Prague. With the game still not put to bed, there wasn’t a chance to substitute the magical pair to rest their legs, but there were a few minutes for John Terry, a barking boy who would have been very disappointed not to start against West Ham, who have a strong following in that area (and of course, John Terry trained with West Ham as a boy).
Overall, this was a very impressive win. After the comeback at Man Utd, the win in midweek and this win, some momentum appears to be building. The international break has come at the wrong time, especially with the frankly ludicrous scheduling of the FA Cup replay just two days after a league game. We now face 6 games in 16 days. Good news is that Terry, Fernando Torres and Ryan Bertrand will all get to spend two weeks training and resting, whilst David Luiz avoided the 10th yellow card that would rule him out of two domestic games. It’s crucial he does the same at Southampton, or he would miss the FA Cup replay.
This league win was the first time we had won back-to-back league games since December 30 after beating Everton and Norwich and also two back-to-back clean sheets!