Antonio Conte provided a damning verdict of his team’s performance – and of their hopes of finishing in the top four – after watching his Chelsea side throw away victory against West Ham at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
Chelsea’s faint hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League look all but over after they allowed the visitors to earn a draw courtesy of Javier Hernandez’s goal, which cancelled out Cesar Azpilicueta’s opener.
For years Hernandez was the super-sub at Manchester United, and one who often hurt Chelsea, and so it proved again as the little Mexican came off the bench to earn West Ham a precious point in their battle against relegation.
On a day when fans in west London paid an emotional tribute to club legend Ray Wilkins, who died last week aged just 61, it was a hugely disappointing but rather familiar finale, and one which has been repeated on many occasions this season by a side which won the league a year ago.
The result leaves Chelsea 10 points behind Tottenham in fifth place with only six games to go and a clearly angry Conte suggested his team did not deserve a top-four finish after failing to heed his warning.
He said: “We must be realistic. If we are not able to win this type of game, we are talking about what?
“I’d like to continue to say ‘we need to continue to work and improve’, but you must win this game if you want to reach a target. In this case, if we wanted to reach a place in the Champions League.
“Because the other teams are clinical. They create chances, they are ready to suffer and win the game. This game describes our whole season.”
Conte was upset at the way his wasteful side switched off in the second-half against a West Ham team who had looked nervous and uninspired for the opening hour, in which Eden Hazard and Willian missed chances and Alvaro Morata had two goals disallowed for offside.
Chelsea were booed off at the end and the Italian had no complaints, adding: “I think this is normal. Because we must be disappointed with the final result.
“After a game like this, you have to get three points. Instead, we are talking about a draw. And this is not the first time. We are paying a lot this season for this type of situation. When this happens with regularity it means you have a problem.
“We must win this game. We must win it. I’m very frustrated and I hope my players go home and stay frustrated because, in this way, we have the right mentality.
“Otherwise, if we accept this result and say we were unlucky today, we are not building anything positive for the future.”
Chelsea went ahead in the first-half through Azpilicueta, who forced the ball home after West Ham failed to defend a short corner, but Chicharito levelled three minutes after coming on to the pitch, sweeping home from a Marko Arnautovic pass as Chelsea’s defence slept.
The 29-year-old has, extraordinarily, now scored in no fewer than six matches after coming on as a substitute against Chelsea.
It was a huge moment for West Ham manager David Moyes, whose team now face a vital relegation clash against Stoke at the London Stadium next Monday, already sitting six points clear of the relegation zone.
And it could have been even better for the Hammers if referee Kevin Friend had given a penalty when N’Golo Kante made a last-gasp tackle on Arnautovic which was touch and go.
“Whether it was a penalty or not, it wasn’t given and I would rather talk about how well the team performed,” said Moyes.
“If we perform the way we’ve been doing then we’ll give ourselves every chance. We’ve got great togetherness.”
Moyes had reason to be thankful to goalkeeper Joe Hart, who rediscovered his form of old with a string of fine saves, including a spectacular tip-over from a long-range Marcos Alonso effort.