Monday 27 May 2019

Declan Rice stars again for West Ham as boss Pellegrini praises teenager after Chelsea draw

Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice in action during the Premier League match at London Stadium.
Chelsea's N'Golo Kante (left) and West Ham United's Declan Rice in action during the Premier League match at London Stadium.

Sam Roberts

West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini was quick to highlight the contribution of Declan Rice after his side held Chelsea scoreless for the first time this season in London this afternoon.

The Hammers became the first team this season to take points off Maurizio Sarri's Chelsea as they played out a goalless draw in the London Stadium.

However it was 19-year-old Rice who was one of the standout performers on a pitch littered with international stars as he continually frustrated Chelsea from his defensive midfield role.

Rice has been engulfed in a media storm since his decision to decline a call-up for the Republic of Ireland's latest round of fixtures, telling manager Martin O'Neill that he needed more time to consider his international future.

The London-born teenager is eligible to play for both Ireland and England, and despite three senior appearances with the Republic of Ireland, he has not yet been tied down to the country.

And Irish fans will be looking on with a mixture of excitement and concern as Rice continues to put in remarkably assured performances against Premier League opposition.

Speaking after his latest impressive showing, Manuel Pellegrini said Rice had "taken his chance" with the senior team, and highlighted the fact the best was yet to come with the youngster still learning his role.

"I see Declan working every day and I know the way he does it," Pellegrini told reporters after the game. "He has lots of intensity, learning a lot about not losing his position. He can be a very good centre-back and a holding midfielder and he has taken his chance."

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri meanwhile admitted that Rice, and the rest of West Ham's defence, had successfully frustrated his attacking stars, who failed to score in the Premier League for the first time this season.

"It was very difficult to play inside," Sarri said after the game. "They were cutting out every pass for Giroud and we needed two wingers."

For his part, Rice admitted that he was still learning his role, but said he '"cherished" the opportunity to play against some of the best players in the world.

"I'm only 19 years old so I'm learning from the best players, (Mark) Noble, Pedro (Obiang), and today I'm coming up against some top talent," Rice told Sky Sports.

"It's important for me to showcase my talent, obviously last year I played in defence and now in midfield, I'm just cherishing it."

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