The pressure has been lifted from Manuel Pellegrini’s shoulders after West Ham ended a run of of almost 70 days without a win with a superb performance at London rivals Chelsea.
Aaron Cresswell scored the only goal as the Hammers battled for their under fire manager and claimed a first League win at Stamford Bridge since 2002 while third choice keeper David Martin kept a clean sheet on his Premier League debut at the age of 33.
After two months of watching Roberto cause untold trouble between the sticks having come in following Lukasz Fabianski’s injury, Pellegrini finally handed Martin a chance to shore things up on while Antonio was handed a first start since August coming in for the goal-shy Sebastian Haller.
After a frantic 2-2 draw in Valencia on Wednesday, which saw Tammy Abraham limp off with a hip injury, Lampard made five changes including handing Olivier Giroud a chance to impress with only a second League start of the season while Pedro was given a run ahead of Willian.
The Frenchman’s inclusion, ahead of Michy Batshuayi who has been the No2 thus far under Lampard, seemed to slow a Chelsea front line which has been so potent on the break this season.
There were still chances for the hosts to put another nail in the coffin of Pellegrini’s West Ham tenure, Chrisitan Pulisic, so bright in recent weeks, guilty of spurning the best Chelsea chances of the first half - twice failing to convert clear openings at the far post, not even testing Martin on his bow.
The 33-year-old keeper was an improvement on Roberto but still did not quite look so sure of himself, spilling a long range effort from Pulisic and rather fortunately keeping out Giroud and Pedro after stopping a drive from Kovacic. He was keeping West Ham ticking though, and the travelling his contingent serenaded their new cult hero throughout the first half as his father, former West Ham defender Alvin, watched from the stands.
The Hammers, without a win since September, could have nudged ahead too but were denied by a far more confident Kepa stop, the Spaniard diving left to palm away a diving header from Antonio as he raced in front of Reece James to stoop and meet Robert Snodgrass’s cross.
This young Chelsea side have been worked tirelessly under Lampard and it was starting to show, gaps in the West Ham defence were proving harder to find and when they came the cutting edge wasn’t quite there. They needed something to wake them up, and Cresswell duly delivered.
Before everyone had returned to their seats following the break the full-back raced into the Chelsea box, collected a pass from Pablo Fornals, cut onto his weaker right foot and dispatched quite the finish, bending it round Kepa and into the far corner.
The Hammers were transformed, chasing, pressing and fighting for everything once more, life restored to a side previously bereft of confidence. Lampard looked to react and inject some energy into his men, N’Golo Kante and Willian introduced but West Ham kept coming.
Twice in a minute Kepa was on hand to save first from Fabian Balbuena and then Antonio as Chelsea failed to deal with successive Snodgrass corners, before having to rely on those in Stockley Park to keep them in it.
Another Snodgrass ball, this time a second bite at a cross after his initial ball had been sent straight back out to the right, sailed through the Blues defence before a combination of Antonio, the upright and Kurt Zouma bundled the ball into the back of the net. It took a blurry VAR check to chalk the second goal off for a handball from the Hammers forward.
West Ham had their tails up, even Declan Rice was flying forward looking to jon the attacks down the left.
In came Callum Hudson-Odoi, back from injury, as Chelsea desperately pushed to avoid back-to-back Premier League defeats for the first time since February 2018 in the days of Antonio Conte, but still Martin’s goal was largely untroubled. The man brought in to make up the numbers over the summer now throwing himself into the path of Fikayo Tomori as he looked to head past Martin.
Lampard’s side are now without a win in their last three in all competitions and look to be running out of steam following an unrelenting start to the season. They will hope to correct things when Aston Villa visit on Wednesday while Pellegrini can sleep a lot easier in east London tonight before looking to get a run going at Wolves in four days time, his job safe for now.