Chelsea returned to winning ways with a convincing victory away at West Ham on Saturday evening. The three points moving us into the top three came courtesy of three goals, two of them netted by Super Frankie Lampard. It’s always great to see Frank adding to his ever-increasing top Chelsea goal scorer tally, but even more so than usual when he finds the net at the Boleyn ground. It was a brilliant all round display from Lampard, who seemed to enjoy functioning in a three man midfield with Mikel and Ramires. It was a throw back to Mourinho’s first stint in charge, as he dusted of the much-loved 4-3-3 formation. Mourinho deciding to try a different shape from the start against West Ham, possibly in the hope that it might aid our creativity earlier in the match, and prevent a forced change of shape inside the last half hour to try and force a result, as has been seen numerous times so far this season.
As good as the second half performance was, and the result is, we didn’t begin with the tempo and control that was hoped for. In truth the first half an hour was a decidedly scrappy affair, pretty poor from both sides. Neither side managing to keep the ball well enough to create chances. West Ham looked blunt upfront, and would do all night. It’s no surprise to see that they are struggling for goals. They lined up with Nolan vaguely representing a centre forward, but some would class them as playing six across the middle with no one up front. Think Spain, but without any class, style, or ability to retain possession. It was Nolan who had their only real chance of the first half. A Downing ball in finding him at the back post, Azpilicueta blocked the header, Cahill blocked the follow up and Terry cleared.
Chelsea didn’t stamp their authority on the match until the first goal arrived on 21 minutes. We hadn’t controlled possession, or found any width yet, Oscar taking up positions infield quite often, and our full backs not getting the opportunity to overlap. Our first decent attack built brought the break through now. The ball was worked across the width of the pitch around halfway, with West Ham sitting deep Cahill came forward into their half to support, and lofted a ball in to the path of Oscar coming in from the left side of the area, Demel knocked the ball in the direction of his keeper, Oscar beat him to the ball and was brought down. Penalty. Only one man was going to step up, and Lampard duly dispatched down the middle into the roof of the net.
We still didn’t really get going until we found ourselves 0-2 to the good, but this was a move of great creativity. Hazard drifted in from the left with his back to goal, untracked by Demel, Collins was pulled out of the backline to pick him up. As the ball was played into Hazard he flicked it past Colllins to Oscar, who had made a run into the space where the centre back should have been, even with the attention of two other defenders he managed to take a touch on and find the bottom corner. This was the creativity we needed to find openings earlier in matches.
Allardyce reacted by removing Joe Cole for Maiga who went upfront and Nolan dropped deeper. Diame also came on, which signalled the turning point in this fixture last season when he came on at half time and bossed the midfield. He would have no such impact on this occasion.
The second half was very good from Chelsea. Much more comfortable in possession, controlling the match as West Ham had to come out looking for two goals at a minimum to salvage anything from the fixture.
They managed to create one great chance, which could be looked upon as a possible turning point, at least from their point of view. Morrison somehow found his way past two defenders out wide before crossing low to the back post where unmarked, six yards out was Maiga. He somehow contrived to dribble his effort wide by a yard. A let of for Chelsea. West Ham would have no more chances, till stoppage time at least. They became very stretched in the midfield as the half went on, Noble being pulled out of position as he attempted to support attacks, and cover the defence when we won the ball back and counter attacked ourselves. This was a key difference to our second half performance last season, the fact that we held our own in midfield, and made use of the open spaces when we won the ball back. Oscar had a shot saved low after being found on a break. Eto’o went close a couple of times, curling just over from twenty yards and having an effort saved from a counter attack. He also held the ball up well all match.
Another notable mention must go to Azpilicueta, who playing at left back didn’t put a foot wrong, his consistency when required anywhere on the pitch is making him a key member of Mourinho’s squad. He started a brilliant move in the second half, winning the ball in the left back position and striding forward, combining with Hazard, Ramires, and Eto’o before crossing to Oscar who fired wide at the back post.
It will be interesting to see if Jose uses this shape again from the off, it was certainly very promising in the second half. Although already two to the good, the match still has to be killed off, and we certainly saw many occasions where that didn’t happen last season. This one was well and truly killed off when Lampard got his second inside the last ten minutes. An Ivanovic cross from the right saw an initial shot blocked, Lampard following up first time on the rebound to make it 207 Chelsea goals and counting for him.
The remaining time was enjoyable to watch, as we seemed to counter attack at will, Schurlle and Ba now on linked up niclely on a couple of occasions, Ba having a late goal ruled out for offside.
Convincing win with no debate this time out, and a lot of positives in a good all round team performance.
West Ham 0-3 Chelsea
Lampard 21,(pen), 82, Oscar 34,
West Ham 4-2-3-1
Jaskeleinen; Demel, Tomkins, Collins, O’Brien
Noble, Collinson;(Diame) J. Cole, (Maiga), Morrison, Downing;
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry©, Azpilicueta;
Mikel, Lampard, Ramires;
Oscar, (Schurrle), Eto’o, (Ba), Hazard, (Essien).
Referee: Chris Foy