LONDON – Chelsea’s failure to beat lowly London rivals West Ham United in the Premier League on Sunday summed up their season, according to manager Antonio Conte.
The 1-1 draw in a match Chelsea dominated left them 10 points outside the top four places that will guarantee entry to next season’s Champions League.
Asked if they could make up the deficit with six games to play, Conte just laughed, giving vent to his frustration.
His disenchantment is spreading to supporters, who booed at the final whistle. Many of them believe the Italian will depart at the end of the season, only 12 months after winning the Premier League.
“I think with this game, we can see our season,” Conte told the BBC.
“We can create a lot of chances, but we cannot take them. Then we concede two shots and concede a goal.
“We have had good performances all season, but you have to score. This is not the first time, and we have to improve a lot. When you stay in this position in the table, it means that you have a problem.”
For Cesar Azpilicueta, who put Conte’s team ahead before Javier Hernandez’s late equaliser, it is a season that would not be redeemed even by winning the FA Cup, in which they play outsiders Southampton in the semi-final.
“The FA Cup is a massive trophy, but it’s not enough for us. We will try to win it, but the cup will not save our season,” said Azpilicueta.
In contrast, West Ham were buoyant after snatching a draw that had not seemed remotely likely until substitute Hernandez popped up to score soon after coming on.
“We were incredibly committed,” said manager David Moyes, who took over in November when they were in the bottom three.
“Thankfully we stuck at it and got something out of it.
“Chelsea were really good in the first half, but we kept it to one. The goal we lose is dire. I could accept conceding from some of their great play, but the goal was so poor.”
Moyes had special praise for striker Hernandez and goalkeeper Joe Hart.
“Everybody knows what Chicharito (Hernandez) is capable of, he’s a great penalty-box striker. He’s had a great career.
“Joe Hart probably needed a game like that. When you play the big teams, you need your keeper to play well, and he did that.”