LONDON • Chelsea, for the first time under Maurizio Sarri, have blinked.
Their pristine 100 per cent record was checked at the London Stadium after a 0-0 draw yesterday, with the visitors running aground on West Ham's industry and left Liverpool as the only Premier League team to boast of six league wins in as many games.
On a day when Eden Hazard's flicks and darts did not quite come off, the drive through midfield came only in fits and starts, and the supply lines to Olivier Giroud and his substitute, Alvaro Morata, were clearly lacking against West Ham.
Maybe that delayed flight back from Greece, held back until Friday afternoon, had left the Blues jaded after their Europa League exertions on Thursday.
Unquestionably, they encountered a West Ham side who were efficiently organised by Declan Rice, a Chelsea youth academy product, who sat in front of a rugged back four with tenacious teammates contributing at his side.
And Sarri, while giving credit to West Ham, admitted his side could have imposed themselves better and that they missed the attacking thrusts of Pedro, who was injured.
"Pedro is important for us because he is the best player for us in movement without the ball," the Italian told Sky Sports. "Maybe we could have done better in the last 20, 25 minutes of the first half. It's impossible to win every match. In the end, one point is okay."
Chelsea dominant in possession.
Jorginho's Premier League record passes.
Manuel Pellegrini's men should take huge heart from making life so uncomfortable for the perceived title contenders. The Hammers might even have claimed more than a point given that they had the better chances.
None was more appealing than the golden opportunity in the 77th minute. Substitute Robert Snodgrass swung over a cross that found Andriy Yarmolenko, free beyond Marcos Alonso at the back post.
But the Ukraine winger somehow headed wide to the disbelief of the home fans. That he was later awarded the Man-of-the-Match award felt rather ironic.
In that context, Chelsea's point might actually be considered a bonus. Perhaps this will serve as justification for Sarri's consistently downbeat assessment of his team's title-winning chances this term.
While Sarri's men monopolised possession, as illustrated by Jorginho's club-record pass completion tally in midfield - the Italian had 180 passes, the most recorded by a player since statistics were compiled from the 2003-04 season - the away side only ever threatened in spurts and showed they remain a work in progress.
Not that West Ham will care. They had been shorn of injured front man Marko Arnautovic, yet troubled Kepa Arrizabalaga more, with stand-in forward Michail Antonio clipping the woodwork before forcing the Spain goalkeeper into making a point-blank save in the first half.
The Englishman lamented fluffing his lines, telling Sky Sports afterwards: "I should have scored. I should have taken it with my left, but hindsight is a wonderful thing."