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Cheik it out! West Ham star uses his head to beat the Blues!

PUBLISHED: 17:00 27 October 2016

West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at the London Stadium.

West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at the London Stadium.

PA Wire/PA Images

Hammers Kouyate is relishing his new role in central defence as his goal helps sink Chelsea

West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at the London Stadium. West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at the London Stadium.

West Ham goalscorer Cheikhou Kouyate came out for a chat with a beaming smile on his face. He shook the hands of the journalists and you could see he was enjoying every minute of it.

The Senegal international has been at the heart of the recent West Ham renaissance which has seen them win two Premier League games on the trot as well as this memorable EFL Cup clash against Chelsea.

The 26-year-old has moved into the defence for the new three centre-back formation, but still had time to get up the other end and bury a stunning header into the corner to give West Ham the lead.

“I watched it after the game and it was an unbelievable goal,” said the modest Kouyate with a laugh.

West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate (floor) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mates during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at the London Stadium. West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate (floor) celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game with team-mates during the EFL Cup, round of 16 match at the London Stadium.

“I’m very happy to score because we win against a big team like Chelsea which was very important.”

It was an historic night for West Ham in the new stadium. Games under the lights at Upton Park were legendary, but this was the first London derby, the first big cup tie at the London Stadium and the place came alive.

“The atmosphere was very, very nice,” said Kouyate. “If you win, the atmosphere is nice, but if you lose then it is not the same.”

There comes that booming laugh again. “The team played well, scored two goals and the crowd were great, all the players gave more because of it,” he added.

West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate during the Premier League match at the London Stadium. West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate during the Premier League match at the London Stadium.

“We have missed the atmosphere at Upton Park, but if it was like this in every game then it would be great.”

Kouyate has adapted to playing in defence superbly. In the three games he has played there, West Ham have let in just one goal – in injury time against Chelsea.

“It is a good system, a nice system, but you have to work very hard in it,” he added.

“Every player needs to learn and to work well. This is West Ham and this is the team from last year so we know what we have to do.”

Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke (centre) battles for the ball with West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate (centre right) during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London. Crystal Palace's Christian Benteke (centre) battles for the ball with West Ham United's Cheikhou Kouyate (centre right) during the Premier League match at Selhurst Park, London.

They certainly did on Wednesday night. Though Chelsea did create chances, it was never easy for them against the three centre-backs as well as Pedro Obiang and skipper Mark Noble in front of the defence.

West Ham were subsequently handed a difficult quarter-final trip to Manchester United, the team which denied them a place at Wembley last season in the FA Cup by beating them in a quarter-final replay.

“Last year we really wanted to get to Wembley, so maybe we can do it this season,” said Kouyate.

“We are playing well, but we still have to work hard and stay humble because we have a lot of hard games to come.”

They do, and it might have been different against a full Chelsea side from the start, but this was still West Ham at their best and Kouyate played a vital role.

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