Chelsea failed to fully capitalise on Manchester United’s defeat to Fulham following a 1-1 draw with West Ham United at Upton Park on Sunday afternoon. The game’s main incidents seemed to revolve solely around the penalty spot, particularly after Frank Lampard was forced to take his penalty three times. Happily the former Hammer held his nerve to secure a point for the Blues.
Chelsea started well enough, Lampard stinging Rob Green’s gloves with an early piledriver. Branislav Ivanovic, again extremely impressive throughout, had a powerful header cleared off the line by Scott Parker. However, without the injured Nicolas Anelka, Chelsea lacked fluency up front and the midfield was too narrow to fashion any clear opportunities.
West Ham had offered little going forward went in at the break ahead. A clever ball by Franco found Jack Collison who was clearly and unnecessarily fouled by the lunging Ashley Cole. Alessandro Diamante scored with ease. However, that was not the end, nor indeed the beginning of the penalty controversies. Earlier Gabbidon appeared to have punched the ball away when under pressure from Kalou, and immediately following the goal Kalou might have won a penalty when barged into by Green having kicked the ball past him.
Carlo Ancelotti responded to the inadequacies of the first half by hauling off the ineffectual Malouda and Kalou and replacing them with Mikel and Daniel Sturridge. Chelsea’s play visibly improved and Sturridge offered some much-needed pace to proceedings. Didier Drogba, who enjoyed a relatively quiet game, almost scored one of the goals of the decade when his outrageous volley from close to the byline dipped over Green but fell just wide. Chelsea did have an equaliser ten minutes later. Sturridge charged into the box but was tackled cleanly by Upson. Referee Mike Dean was ready to award a corner but his assistant on the near side was flagging and Chelsea had a penalty. After the endless West Ham protests had stopped Lampard coolly converted not once, not twice but three times. Dean deemed penalties one and two illegal following encroachment from players from both sides. Lampard didn’t let the farce get to him and Chelsea were back on terms.
Chances were still few and far between for both teams. Diamante had a decent effort saved by Cech before Joe Cole fired over following decent work from Ivanovic. Zhirkov then replaced Cole and almost found a way through the Hammers’ defense, but his cross-cum-shot was well blocked by Green with Lampard lurking. West Ham might have had another penalty when Carvalho appeared to barge Upson out of the way at a corner. At this stage Chelsea seemed to have settled for a point a day after their main challengers for the title had floundered. However it was another disappointing display from the Blues, and with tough fixtures against Birmingham and Fulham in the next week, mediocrity may not be enough if they want to maintain their four point advantage at the top of the Premiership.