While Guus Hiddink admitted his team are now just playing for pride, with little chance of a place in the Champions League and little desire to take part in the Europa League, the Hammers have everything to play for.
Slaven Bilic was livid that Chelsea’s last-gasp equaliser was the result of a penalty that should not have been given, contending that Michail Antonio was outside the area when he clipped Reuben Loftus-Cheek.
Referee Bobby Madley decided otherwise, and Fabregas sent goalkeeper Adrian the wrong way to salvage a point with his second goal of the game, having scored with a perfectly-placed free-kick shortly before half-time.
It was the second time in a week that West Ham felt hard-done by, after being denied a penalty when Dmitri Payet fell under Marcos Rojo’s challenge in their 1-1 draw in the FA Cup at Manchester United last Sunday.
Asked if he felt ‘bigger’ clubs got the decisions that West Ham did not, Bilic bit his lip and told reporters: “That’s your job to investigate!”
But the manager was more upbeat about his side’s unlikely challenge for a Champions League spot, which might have been a tilt at the title, but for a spell in mid-season when the absence of half-a-dozen key players derailed West Ham’s campaign.
After beating Chelsea at Upton Park in October, the Hammers failed to win any of the following eight games, as injuries to Payet, Enner Valencia, Manuel Lanzini, Diafra Sakho and Victor Moses took their toll.
But as Bilic pointed out, they only lost two of those games.
“In that period in November and December we weren’t winning games, but we weren’t losing (many) games either.
“We were solid, we were drawing and that gave us some good points. We were a team that was tough to beat.
“All the time we were encouraging the players, saying ‘Come on, do it now, we will be better when the others come back’ And that is what happened.”
Since taking over from Sam Allardyce last summer, Bilic has added attacking flair to a solid defence, and while Payet has understandably garnered most attention, the rise of Lanzini has been no less eye-catching.
Bilic revealed that he wanted the 22-year-old Argentinian midfielder when he was manager of Besitkas in Turkey. Describing Lanzini’s display, which included a superb curling shot to open the scoring in the 17th minute, Bilic admitted he has been surprised by his progress.
“I would be lying if I said that I was thinking when we got him that he would play like this, so consistently at such a high level. But he always had that potential.
Payet’s reward for a superb first season in English football has been a call-up for France, and Bilic believes the midfielder will get even better. “He’s happy, we are happy. He is playing really well and deserves it.”
Most of Chelsea’s players will be on international duty, too, giving Hiddink time to practise his golf swing, but they have little to play for when they return.
“The players are going to their national teams in Europe and south America, so there are not many people in Cobham and I can have a little break. Maybe I will hit the small white (golf) balls as far as I can!”
Fabregas’s controversial penalty equalised Andy Carroll’s 62nd minute goal, and kept up Hiddink’s unbeaten run in the league since taking over from Jose Mourinho before Christmas.
He said: “The priority was to get away from the relegation zone, and our target now is to see if we can get a European spot.”
Courtois 6; Ivanovic 6, Cahill 6, Terry 6, Azpilicueta 5; Mikel 6, Fabregas 7; Willian 7, Oscar 7, Kenedy 6; Remy 5
Pedro for Kenedy 46, Traore for Remy 82, Loftus-Cheek for Oscar 84
Begovic, Rahman, Matic, Pato.
Adrian 7, Antonio 6, Reid 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 6; Kouyate 7, Noble 6; Valencia 6, Lanzini 7, Payet 7; Sakho 5.
Carroll for Sakho 60, Emenike for Valencia 75, Obiang for Lanzini 82.
Rudolph, Oxford, O’Brien, Song.