Friday 15 December 2017

Mourinho and Blues dealt yet another Hammer blow

West Ham Utd 2-1 Chelsea

West Ham United's Mauro Zarate celebrates scoring his first goal in yesterday's victory over Chelsea
West Ham United's Mauro Zarate celebrates scoring his first goal in yesterday's victory over Chelsea
Jose Mourinho watches as West Ham score to go ahead
Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta (left) and West Ham United's Diafra Sakho battle for control of the ball
Andy Carroll puts away West Ham's second goal

Dion Fanning

Just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you. At the Boleyn Ground yesterday, it was hard not to think that Jose Mourinho's time at Chelsea has reached the end of the endgame which has been playing out this season.

Chelsea lost for the fifth time in the Premier League, but there was more to worry about than simply the result. Mourinho was sent off at half-time following what was described as a "discussion" with the referee, while Nemanja Matic was dismissed just before the interval.

In the aftermath of Matic's sending-off, Mourinho's assistant, Silvino Louro, was also dismissed. Chelsea had a goal disallowed for offside and appeared to have equalised at one point, but goal-line technology ruled that the ball had not wholly crossed the line, if only by millimetres. Mourinho might suspect cyber-hackers.

"I would definitely moan if they had gone against us," Slaven Bilic said afterwards. "I feel for Mourinho - a lot of decisions have gone against him but they were not mistakes, they were matters of opinion."

Gary Cahill, who had equalised, said the Chelsea players were "devastated". Wisely, Mourinho did not talk to the media after the game - nobody from Chelsea did - because enough had happened for the manager to believe that not only were dark forces conspiring against him, technology was too.

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If the manager had spoken, he might have triggered the stadium ban which is currently suspended. Chelsea could be fined as six players were booked and they failed to turn up for interviews afterwards. But fines and bans are not the real concern for a side that has run out of fight and ideas.

Most worryingly, the players look like they have stopped playing. As has been the case so often this season, they appeared to have devised a game plan which would show they have stopped playing for the manager.

It is hard to see how Mourinho can salvage this, and, in his ongoing battles with the authorities, he has been summoning petty sarcasm rather than defiance. There appears to be only one ending to this story, and the only questions that remain are 'when?' and 'how?'

The outbreaks of ill-discipline were in keeping with Chelsea's approach. Diego Costa moved morosely through the game, while Matic could have been taken off at half-time if he hadn't been dismissed.

Cesc Fabregas was taken off at the interval instead, and when John Obi Mikel is a more dynamic replacement, the problems are extensive. West Ham, having beaten Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City away from home, were excellent and deserved the, win but Bilic spent plenty of time afterwards talking about Chelsea and what had happened to Mourinho at half-time, but he is not a man who surrenders the secrets of the tunnel.

"The real impact was Matic, whether one coach is sent off or the manager, it doesn't matter," he said.

Mauro Zarate gave West Ham the lead in the first half, but Gary Cahill's equaliser looked like it would provide Chelsea with an unlikely point. Then, in the 79th minute, substitute Andy Carroll scored his first goal since January to give West Ham the victory they deserved.

For 45 minutes, it didn't look as if West Ham were taking on the champions as Chelsea stumbled through the first half. They were hapless and seemed to be unfamiliar with each other. They only excelled in finding new ways to give the ball away.

When Fabregas apologetically gave away a free-kick 30 yards out, it summed up Chelsea's lack of effort. Asmir Begovic tipped Dimitri Payet's effort away for a corner, but the danger wasn't over. From the corner, Ramires failed to clear properly and the ball skidded across the box to Zarate, who drove a shot low past Begovic.

Mourinho left his seat when the goal went in, but he looked as helpless on the touchline as a man wondering when the next bus is going to come. Chelsea thought they had equalised when Kurt Zouma headed towards goal and Lanzini miscontrolled the ball on the post. It appeared then to bounce over the line, but not all the way, and Lanzini cleared while Chelsea ignored the technology and protested to the linesman.

Matic was booked in the aftermath and picked up his second nine minutes later. Lanzini chipped over when he only had Begovic to beat, while Fabregas was furious when he was ruled marginally offside as he drove the ball into the net.

Chelsea were losing their heads and picked up a couple of bookings following Matic's sending-off, while Louro was also sent to the stands.

Mourinho didn't appear in the dug-out for the second half, and soon the rubbernecking in the directors' box confirmed that he was watching from the stand.

He observed all etiquette when, 10 minutes in, Cahill equalised. He challenged for the ball from a corner and reacted quickly when it dropped in the box and drove in for the equaliser.

Chelsea looked a threat on the counter-attack, but vulnerabilities remained. John Terry failed to clear properly and the ball made its way to Aaron Cresswell on the left. His cross reached Carroll, who climbed over the Chelsea defence and headed the ball past Begovic.

Chelsea had now conceded two or more goals in every away league game this season, and when Radamel Falcao came from the bench, it was another sign of desperation.

West Ham's extraordinary season continues. They are now a point behind Manchester City. Chelsea's extraordinary season gets worse. They are five points outside the relegation zone. Only one man can save their season now and it is Roman Abramovich, not Jose Mourinho.

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