Chelsea took regulate of the battle to safe Champions League football next season as Timo Werner’s goal earned a 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday. After a week dominated by England’s ‘big six’ aiming to assure top level European football each season via a breakaway Super League (ESL), Chelsea and Liverpool turned their attentions to trying to earn a top-four Premier League finish on the field. Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham were the other four English clubs involved in proposals for the ESL, which collapsed inside 48 hours of its launch after a livid backlash from governments, governing bodies, players and fans.
The Blues are now in pole position for fourth as just a second Premier League goal in 22 games for Werner opened up a three-point virtue over the fifth-placed Hammers.
Thomas Tuchel blamed the distraction of enormous protests out of doors Stamford Bridge on the night the ESL proposals crumbled for a 0-0 draw against Brighton on Tuesday.
The German made six changes with one eye also on the first leg of his side’s Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Chelsea’s superior strength in depth showed against an injury-hit West Ham without Michail Antonio, Declan Rice and Aaron Cresswell.
“We did not talk one word approximately Super League from Tuesday on,” said Tuchel. “I felt everybody very concentrated and enjoying the focal point on just the game.”
The result could have been very different had Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta not escaped strong claims for handball within his own area as he deflected a shot wide halfway through the first half.
Werner has failed to live up to his £50 million ($69 million) price tag since joining from RB Leipzig final summer.
But the German ended his two-month goal drought with a composed finish from Ben Chilwell’s cross two minutes before half-time.
After the break, though, Werner showed the profligacy in front of goal that has characterised his season as he by hook or by crook turned the rebound wide after Lukasz Fabianski parried Mason Mount’s long-range effort.
The in-form Jesse Lingard came closest to an equaliser for the hosts as his looping effort drifted just wide.
But the Hammers’ hopes were killed off 10 minutes from time when Fabian Balbuena was once harshly sent off after a VAR review for his follow-through on Chilwell after clearing the ball.
“I thought it was once a garbage decision,” said West Ham boss David Moyes. “I think this is a decision made by somebody who has never played the game.”
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