If I were Stuart Hall, the man who uses his tongue better than a £500 hooker (I would guess), I might say that this performance was arrant, ill-conditioned, irredeemable, execrable or even unendurable. Luckily, some might say, I am not Stuart Hall, so I will call it crap. We were at times amazingly disjointed, lacked passion and even (on occasions) looked like we were playing together for the first time this season. True there were not many players out there who did not perform, it is just that they did not gel as a unit. West Ham, on the other hand, played as if their very lives depended on it and thoroughly deserved to pick up their first win of the season (much as it pains me to say it). But for Carlo, it could well have been much, much worse.
I suppose the warning signs should have been there from the off. West Ham bottom, no wins all season, four goals scored in six games with twelve conceded, while away from home they had the proud record of played two, lost two, scored two, conceded eight. Add into the pot that last season we were unbeaten for our first eight games and then lost to West Ham and you just knew in your bones that the inconsistent Chelsea we all regularly hope has gone away would be back from its holidays with a super tan ready to shatter our illusion that we really might be able to make a challenge for the Premiership title.
You cannot really blame it on team selection either. Injuries aside, I think that this was probably the right team to put out, with only the dropping of Zola a major talking point. I personally feel he was due a rest and with a trip to Norway coming up fast it was only to be expected.
The Irons ran over us seemingly at will and should have been ahead as early as the sixteenth minute. A good shot by Sinclair was brilliantly saved by Carlo. Then, five minutes later, we were awarded a penalty. I have to be honest and say that I do not have a clue what it was for. [Shirt-pull by Minto on Huth – Ed]. Some of those around me claimed handball by Lomas, while others said there had been a push. The reason does not matter in circumstances like this and up stepped Jimmy Floyd to put us one up totally against the run of play.
Two minutes later and we had not learnt our lesson, and the superb Di Canio was only stopped from opening the scoring by the excellence of Carlo. Thank goodness for Carlo. Five minutes before the break an effort from a West Ham corner was — once more — saved well by Carlo, only to see Jermaine Defoe bundle in the rebound. Bugger. No more than they deserved though, sadly.
You always hope that things will change for the better after the break and to a certain extent they did. We certainly started to play more like a unit for the first time in the match and could well have gone ahead just a minute into the half. Then disaster. In the 47th minute, Di Canio (with shades of Stanic’s goal of a couple of years ago) juggled the ball a little and smashed it past Carlo from outside the box. No matter how bugged you are that you have gone a goal behind against this lot, you cannot help but admire the brilliance of the goal. Paolo Di Canio, for all his odd behaviour and occasional whining, is still an incredible talent. At the time he joined West Ham I wished that we had picked him up, and I feel that even more so today.
Five minutes later and they had the ball in the net again, although thankfully this time it was ruled out for offside. Just after the hour mark, Zola came on for Zenden. I think it might have been better to have made the switch with Eidur, who was looking a million miles away from the player he was last season. He is being pushed off the ball far too easily and looks like he has little or no confidence. This is not helped when, after a great run and cross from the Gronk, he managed to side foot the ball high over the crossbar.
A header from Jimmy Floyd was brilliantly saved by James, who managed to push the ball onto the woodwork. It seem as though we would never score. Then, after 72 minutes, Scott Minto (who?!) committed a foul outside the box. Up stepped Mr Zola to curl the ball superbly over the wall and into the back of the net. Once again we did not really deserve it, but who cares. Maybe from here we could go on and actually snatch a victory. No such luck. With seven minutes left, Melchiot headed the ball against Gallas and it dropped for Di Canio, who made no mistake to put them 3-2 ahead, almost doubling their goal tally for the season in the process.
That really was that. A little huffing and puffing aside, there was only ever one team out there who could win it, for a team is always going to beat a collection of eleven individuals. I knew that at some point the unbeaten run would have to come to an end. I just kind of hoped that we might put up more of a show in letting it go. Let’s just hope that having got the rubbish stuff out of the way we gel in time to put together a show on Thursday. There is no way you can call this defeat a crisis, but should we lose on Thursday night the season will certainly take a dive in the wrong direction.
Chelsea line-up: Cudicini — Melchiot, Gallas, Huth, Stanic — Zenden (Zola, 62), Lampard, Morris, Gronkjaer — Hasselbaink, Gudjohnsen
Unused subs: de Goey, Terry, Nicolas, De Lucas