LONDON ( Associated Press) – US forward Christian Pulisic came off the bench to score in the 90th minute to give Chelsea a 1-0 win over West Ham, who finished third in the Premier League on Sunday.
Pulisic, who entered as part of a triple replacement by Chelsea in the 76th minute, finished first with a cross from Marcos Alonso in the bottom corner of his left foot at Stamford Bridge.
The goal was the second Premier League win by an American in the 90th minute or so, the first since Fulham’s Carlos Boccanegra against Tottenham on January 31, 2006. This spared the blush of Jorginho, who imposed a penalty on West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianci in the 87th minute after his trademark hop-and-skip run-up. Craig Dawson brought down Romelu Lukaku for a penalty and was shown a red card to check contact in the area after VAR saw the incident.
Chelsea went five points ahead of fourth-placed Arsenal, who won 4-2 at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to intensify their Champions League qualification battle. Chelsea, however, have played one more match.
West Ham rested key players such as Declan Rice and Michael Antonio ahead of their appearance in the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday.
Pulisic has struggled to make a debut in Chelsea’s squad in recent weeks, with Thomas Tuchel taking the likes of Timo Werner and Mason Mount’s front three on either side of Kai Havertz.
“(Police) had a period when he was on a run, was confident, heavily involved in the front and Timo had to wait several weeks,” Tuchel said.
“Pulli struggled a bit since coming back from the international break (in March), where he had three matches … and faced time zones. From there he struggled with energy, that was my influence, on and off the pitch. It happens like this sometimes. Now we have tried to bring him back with full confidence from the bench and I am happy with today’s effort and I am glad that he got to make such a big impact with (other options) Romelu and Hakim (Ziach).
Tuchel said on Friday that his players are “fragile”, tired and lacking ideas on how to recover from their ailing home form. A disappointing first half devoid of any inventiveness or quality backed him.
Chelsea were without injured defenders Antonio Rudiger and Reece James.
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