Friday 19 January 2018

Grant calls for character as nightmare start goes on

West Ham United 1
Chelsea 3

Mark Fleming

Avram Grant displayed the air of a doomed man as he stood impassive before the West Ham United dug-out, but then again he always does. Chelsea's routine victory means he has overseen the worst start in the club's 115-year history, and rumours that West Ham's co-owners are beginning to think they may have made a monumental error in appointing him are gathering momentum.

His cause was not helped by goalkeeper Rob Green, who spilled a straightforward free-kick that allowed Chelsea to score a second, 91 days after his infamous World Cup howler in Rustenburg that cost England dear against the US.

Grant called on his goalkeeper to show character, a challenge that applies to the whole club after four straight defeats. "Sometimes supporters love you, sometimes they are against you. You need to do your job anyway. Rob is a tough guy. He's a good goalkeeper and he needs to react like a man, which he is doing," Grant said.

Fabio Capello dropped Green after his last clanger, but there is little chance of the same fate befalling him at club level. Instead it could be Grant who takes the rap, with West Ham already four points from safety. Next weekend's trip to Stoke City is a very early season relegation six-pointer.

One thing that could buy Grant some time is the club's need to count every single penny, as sacking their new manager, who is on a four-year contract and has brought in three new members of the coaching staff, will cost several million at a time when bankruptcy is still a real possibility.

Co-owner David Sullivan wrote in his programme notes about how he is struggling to cope with the club's £100m debt, and is relying on the largesse of the banks.

"It is the most difficult task to try and keep the club afloat, yet still pursue a strategy of improving the team," he wrote. "The club is still very much in a precarious position. We have £50m of bank loans and £50m of other debts. The banks have been incredibly supportive and without their help we would simply not exist."

Another factor in Grant's favour is the spirited performance of the team, who managed to keep the match alive despite conceding two early goals. "I don't think we will ever have a problem with fighting spirit," Grant said.

Two headers from Michael Essien, either side of a comical goal from Salomon Kalou that involved Green dropping the ball and Matthew Upson's clearance striking the Chelsea striker on the heel, confirmed the visitors' dominance, before Scott Parker's wonderful volley gave West Ham their first goal from open play this season.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech said Essien's goals proved the champions can score from everywhere, and not just through Didier Drogba: "We know we have six others who can score. We don't rely only on Didier. That's why he gets involved, he passes the ball, he create the chances, and not just for the other strikers, for everybody."

Match facts

West Ham (4-4-2): Green; Jacobsen, Ben Haim, Upson, Ilunga; Behrami (Piquionne 72), Parker, Noble, Boa Morte (Dyer 46); Cole, Obinna.

Substitutes not used: Stech (gk), Tomkins, Barrera, Kovac, Faubert.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry (Alex 82), Cole; Essien, Mikel, Ramire; Kalou (Malouda 84), Drogba, Anelka (Kakuta 76). Substitutes not used: Turnbull, Benayoun, Zhirkov, Sturridge.

Booked: West Ham Parker, Noble.Chelsea Cole, Ivanovic.

Man of the match: Essien.

Possession: West Ham 49%, Chelsea 51%

Shots on target: West Ham 7, Chelsea 9

Referee: Chris Foy (Merseyside). Attendance: 33,014 Match Rating: 7.

Independent News Service

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