West Ham in Blue heaven as Pellegrini saves his job with some vital changes
PUBLISHED: 15:30 02 December 2019
PA Wire/PA Images
Chelsea victory is perfect response for under pressure West Ham boss
As the great Jimmy Greaves once said: 'Football is a funny old game' but not this funny surely? West Ham's win was their first at Stamford Bridge in 17 years and it felt so good.
Even the most devout Hammers fan would have doubted his team's chances on Saturday and many expected a heavy defeat followed by the departure of manager Manuel Pellegrini.
But the Chilean manager made the changes he needed to and it was clear that the players are still very much on his side as they gave everything to the cause.
Sebastien Haller was dropped for Michail Antonio, Felipe Anderson moved into the middle and Fabian Balbuena was restored to the defence and all performed superbly on the day.
But that was nothing compared to the most vital change as David Martin replaced the hopeless Roberto in goal.
It was a masterstroke that every West Ham fan had been hoping for. Surely a no-brainer, though the manager suggested it had been a tough decision.
"It was a very difficult decision," he said after the first clean sheet in eight games. "Of course it's difficult because it's a position where you must be very careful when you change it.
"Lukasz Fabianski was our best player last season and Roberto had the chance to come in for him, but we needed a reaction and that was the reason."
When your goalkeeper is costing you two goals a game, surely it was not a tough decision. Roberto had lost all his confidence and it would not have been hard to guess the outcome had the Spaniard stayed in goal for this one.
"David Martin had never played before in the Premier League, but I think he did very well," said Pellegrini.
"He had the personality to play, and I think our defenders helped him a lot to keep that clean sheet.
"His Dad is a West Ham legend and I'm happy for him that the first game was so successful. I hope this will now be the start of our recovery as a team."
There were some superb displays on the day, some more effective than Martin, who did not have too much to do, but the 33-year-old former Millwall man was the key.
He gave confidence to a defence that did not have to look constantly over their shoulders to see what the keeper was up to.
And with that renewed confidence they were able to fight for every ball and cause problems for Chelsea at the other end.
Michail Antonio was a constant thorn in the Blues side with his pace and persistence and deserved the goal he notched in the second half which would have wrapped up the win.
Anderson was more involved as a number 10 and was rightly livid when he was subbed off again, while Pablo Fornals had his best game in a West Ham shirt and set up the goal.
That came just after half time and was as extraordinary as it was surprising.
Aaron Cresswell got the ball on the left edge of the box, cut inside and thumped in a shot with his right-foot that hit the far corner of the net.
"I think it was a really important win," said a relieved Pellegrini. "We know the results recently are not what we expected of this team, but football is like that.
"You must understand that you must be solid and consistent in the Premier League through the whole game," he added.
It was a first win since the Manchester United game back in September and it shows what they are capable of when they are not shooting themselves in the foot with their choice of keeper.
Pellegrini is not in the clear yet. Defeats against Wolves and Arsenal would plunge them back into trouble, but he has bought himself some time and that may be the turning point.
Mind you, as Jimmy says, 'football is a funny old game'!