Antonio Conte’s era at Stamford Bridge began with a much deserved victory as goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa sealed a 2-1 win for the Blues at home to West London rivals, West Ham United.
Hazard gave Chelsea the lead, and they looked like running away with the win before James Collins’ 77th minute goals seemed to have condemned the Blues to a point at home in their first game. But Diego Costa’s shot from outside the box in the 89th minute means Conte started the season and his reign at Stamford Bridge with a win.
It was an end-to-end stuff in the first half, especially in the opening exchanges with both sides playing at frenetic pace. Chelsea new signing N’Golo Kante got into the referees book almost immediately after kick-off, as he was shown a yellow card for a foul.
Despite the pace with which the game started, the first real chance of the half came in the 12th minute, when Branislav Ivanovic produced a promising shot after his wonderful solo run, but West Ham ‘keeper Adrian was on hand to thwart his effort.
And then in the 31st minute, a brilliant individual effort by Eden Hazard saw him find his way past challenges into the box but his shot was narrowly wide of the right post. Andre Ayew’s night was however cut short after suffering a hamstring injury with only 34 minutes into the West Ham debut.
Oscar would however be disappointed he wasn’t awarded a penalty when he went down inside the West Ham box but the referee waved play on. Overall, it was quite a disappointing start by the Hammers.
Eden Hazard opened the scoring shortly after the break to record the first goal in the Antonio Conte era as well as Chelsea’s 5000th Premier League goal. Spanish fullback Cesar Azpilicueta made a direct run into the West Ham penalty area and was fouled by Michail Antonio, with the referee wasting no time in pointing to the spot.
The Belgian stepped up and made no mistakes from the spot as the Blues took a deserved lead in the 47th minute.
The former Premier League champions kept pressing with West Ham having very little impact in the final third, but it was the Hammers who scored next. Substitute Dimitri Payet’s delicious corner-kick wasn’t dealt with properly by the Chelsea defence, and James Collins was on hand to fire a half volley with his left foot to level the score for the Hammers.
With West Ham looking like snatching a point, Conte sent in the calvary as Victor Moses and Michy Batshuayi were introduced, as the substitutions seemed to pay off as Batshuayi’s impressive link-up play saw Diego Costa fire Chelsea into the lead again in the 89th minute, which eventually proved to be the winner.
The win now means Conte started his first season in England with a win, which makes them one of the early leaders of the season.