Chelsea kept their marvellous unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge intact, with a very scrappy 1-0 win against London rivals West Ham United. The win came after the freezing 4-0 win in midweek against Rosenborg, which put Chelsea through to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Avram Grant selected Salomon Kalou to join Didier Drogba and Joe Cole in the front three, whilst Steve Sidwell started his second consecutive match in the Premiership due to Michael Essien’s suspension. Mikel was preferred to Makelélé in midfield, whilst at the back, Wayne Bridge was chosen at left back; Alex continued to deputise for Ricardo Carvalho and Carlo Cudicini was once again in goal, with Petr Čech out through injury.
Chelsea old boys Scott Parker and Carlton Cole started for the Hammers, but were welcomed back to Stamford Bridge, unlike Frank Lampard and Joe Cole, who received no mercy from the Hammers fans.
The first twenty minutes, although slow, was Chelsea’s, as Frank Lampard crashed a free kick into the wall in the second minute, and Drogba curled a potential stunner inches wide of Green’s goal seven minutes later.
Matthew Etherington was the first booking of the game, the West Ham midfielder shown yellow after fouling Lampard, cheers emanating from both sets of fans, albeit for different reasons.
Solano lobbed over the crossbar, and Mikel was booked for a Parker-esq challenge on Parker himself as the drab first half drew to a close, without either goalkeeper being properly stretched.
The second half opened with Chelsea on the attack, after Kalou’s cute dink played Wayne Bridge into space. The Chelsea left back then picked out Sidwell lurking, but his well struck effort from the edge of the box was brilliantly blocked by Matthew Upson.
Three minutes later, Frank Lampard unleashed a stinging strike from 25 yards out, only to see it skid just wide of the near post, with Green scrambling to make his ground.
On the hour, Boa Morte broke through the middle, but his eventual shot took a deflection of Chelsea skipper Terry, and ended up in the arms of the ever comfortable Cudicini, who once more showed his fantastic reliability in times of need, and his commitment as an admirable servant of Chelsea Football Club.
With 24 minutes remaining, Grant made his first change of the game, replacing Sidwell with the in form Shaun Wright-Phillips and the twinkle toed winger was again out to make an impression against the Hammers.
There was sixteen minutes remaining when Lampard let fly from 30 yards, only to see his shot deflected straight up in the air. However, John Terry had made a run forward moments earlier and suddenly saw the opportunity beckon as the ball dropped. Charging towards goal, he connected with a left foot volley that flew wide, before being clattered by West Ham keeper Robert Green. Valiantly as ever, our skipper rose to his feet to continue.
In the same play, former nemesis Freddie Ljungberg replaced Solano in the Hammers midfield, but it was to no avail, as in the 76th minute, Joe Cole scored what turned out to be the winning goal. Route one was the name of the game, as Cudicini’s long kick forward was flicked on, initially by Drogba and then by Kalou. Cole beat the offside trap- debatably- and danced around Green before neatly tucking the finish away. Not pretty, but marvelously effective.
More dazzling footwork from Wright-Phillips, followed by a perfect curling cross forced a corner off Gabbidon, as Drogba lunged. The Chelsea substitute later curled a shot over the bar from 25 yards out.
Late on, European specialist Claudé Makelélé made a popular substitute appearance, as Chelsea safely played through injury time, through to the referee calling the game to a close.
Entertainment was not at the top of the agenda, but after the freezing away trip in midweek, the Blues could be forgiven for being off the pace. However, another three points are in the bag, and Avram Grant’s men continue their charge towards the top of the table, and Stamford Bridge’s fortress was again kept intact, a lasting legacy from the Mourinho era.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Belletti, Alex, Terry (c), Bridge; Sidwell (Wright-Phillips 66), Lampard, Mikel; Kalou, Drogba, J Cole (Makelélé 89).
West Ham (4-3-2-1): Green; Neill, Gabbidon, Upson, McCartney; Parker (Ashton 78), Mullins, Etherington (Spector 78); Solano (Ljungberg 74), Boa Morte; Cole.
Referee Howard Webb