Chelsea 1 – 0 West Ham United

Match reports

The Observer, Paul Wilson: “Inevitably this west-east London derby was a bad-tempered bearpit, and inevitably it was won for Chelsea by a goal from a former West Ham player.”

Sunday Times, Joe Lovejoy: “Chelsea are now unbeaten in their last 70 league matches at Stamford Bridge, and Grant has not been on the losing side in his last 14 in all competitions. Now the reality. Grant’s style of play is no better than Mourinho’s was, and he was left trotting out the old cliche that ugly wins are the ones that win you championships. For a long time, Curbishley’s game plan worked, frustrating Chelsea to the crowd’s increasingly vocal displeasure.”

Independent on Sunday, Nick Townsend: “On a day when Didier Drogba, a persistent menace to the Hammers throughout, complained to fourth official Steve Tanner about a “laser light” being shone in his eyes from the West Ham contingent, there was precious little to dazzle the crowd here. Even the West Ham manager, Alan Curbishley, while lamenting not getting a draw “that most people would have felt was a fair result” conceded that “we did not really fashion the chance that was going to hurt Cudicini”. He asserted that West Ham had arrived “to match up, stop them dictating the game – and that’s what we did. But perhaps I didn’t have enough going the other way.” He can say that again.”

Sunday Telegraph, Patrick Barclay: “In fairness to Grant and Chelsea, West Ham did defend very well – it was not just a matter of vigour – for 75 minutes until a foray down Route One broke their resistance. A long clearance by Carlo Cudicini was headed on, first by Didier Drogba and then by Salomon Kalou, leaving the increasingly influential Joe Cole to survive a suspicion of offside, veer wide of the outrushing Robert Green, and smash a rising drive inside the near post. Grant’s team had been threatening, however, only since the resumption, which saw Frank Lampard shoot off target and Green bravely deny both Drogba and John Terry.”

Official Chelsea FC Website, Andy Jone: “Three consecutive wins in a week is music to Chelsea fans’ ears as we enter the busiest period of the season, and although others are still to play, three points from this tricky London derby leaves us in second place just two points from the top.”

The highlights/goal

Chelsea 1 – 0 West Ham United.

The good

A shockingly poor first half from both teams belied the coming of a gripping second half that reminded me of one of those thriller films where someone is trying to strangle someone else in an epic battle but the weaker one simply refuses to succumb until the inevitable happens… Hence anything “good” is based purely on the second half!

  1. The result and the second half performance – obviously. The definitive game of two halves sums it up. It was hard to believe we were seeing the same teams after the break. However this is 14 games unbeaten and if this had happened under Jose Mourinho none of us would think it unusual. I’m still concerned about reports that it’s the players doing this and not Avram Grant… or maybe he really is much cleverer than we all thought?
  2. Mikel John Obi or Obi John Mikel or John Obi Mikel… whatever his bloody name is – I still haven’t worked it out, and neither it seems have the press, radio or TV! Incredibly lucky to stay on the pitch after his tackle on Scott Parker but second half his performance was sublime.
  3. Joe Cole. Again, throughout the first half he looked leggy after his midweek exertions in Norway, but patently the half time orange did the trick because second half he was magnificent. A real playmaker and his goal was world class. I’m just thankful it wasn’t Salomon Kalou who was put through or Row Z might have been under threat!
  4. Didier Drogba. The Big Friendly Ivorian was yet again magnificent – Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer were almost cooing on Match of the Day. He won headers, turned players, played people in – we are in serious trouble when he goes off to the African Nations Cup because frankly none of our other alleged strikers are anywhere near him.
  5. The atmosphere. It’s always good when the Pikey Boys come to town. Say what you like about their usually vile fans but they always bring a good sized and very vocal bunch of fans, which seems to lift us to sing even more. I just love the “Where’s your caravan?” (sung to the tune of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep), and “The wheels on your house go round and round”. Puerile? Yes! Childish? Yes! Fun? A very big yes!
  6. Shaun Wright-Phillips. Only came on as sub when we were hunting the goal but immediately lifted the crowd and for me, at least, is proving to be one of our key players and it shows in his ever growing confidence. It seems that Mourinho’s departure has suited him (and maybe some of the others?).

The bad

  1. The first half. This was as dire a serving of alleged football that I can remember at Stamford Bridge and to my mind there is no doubt that playing Wednesday, flying back the same night, arriving back at the training ground at three in the morning and then having to play at lunchtime two days later had an effect. West Ham were just as bad so what the hell is their excuse then? I gave up my Saturday morning hangover cure on the golf course for this and frankly by half time it was slightly worse. Still the blood pressure increase from the display in the second half dispersed it outright!
  2. Two of our tackles. One from Mikel on Parker which frankly should have got a red card. He has great potential but he really needs to learn the art of tackling. I think most of us expected a red card when the referee called him over. Kalou then followed into the book with a studs up tackle in front of the East Stand. Having said that he was so poor I’m not sure a red card for him would have been a bad thing anyway.
  3. Louis Boa Morte. To describe him as being a bit chippy is like calling Morrissey a bit miserable or Graham Norton a bit gay. He kicked Carlo Cudicini blatantly when Carlo had the ball in his hands. He tackled and fouled and sniped until at last in the 40th minute Howard Webb gave him the booking he should have had after 10 minutes. The ref got a standing ovation for that one.
  4. Salomon Kalou. Oh dear. A very poor showing again. No doubt the “evangelists” will hound me for this but this guy is so frustrating. He was out of sorts all of yesterday with only one notable contribution of worth – the header for Cole to run on to score. Wasn’t Nicolas Anelka like this in his early Arsenal days – erratic, occasionally brilliant but mostly frustrating?

Player ratings

  • Carlo Cudicini: Didn’t have a lot to do again, but when called to make a few stops did so with aplomb – 7/10.
  • Juliano Belletti: If ever a player made me eat my words it’s him. A great right-back – 7/10.
  • Alex: Does the simple things with little fuss and rarely looked troubled yesterday. Good to know he’s back up to John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho. His ability makes Jose Mourinho’s decision to leave him at PSV last January even stranger – 7/10.
  • Wayne Bridge: Did everything in this game that he failed to do for England. A good “comeback” performance – 7/10.
  • John Terry: Looking much better now than prior to his recent break and will no doubt be back to his imperious best in another couple of games. Unlucky not to score – 7/10.
  • Frank Lampard: Battled in midfield well and had some shots which he was unlucky to miss or have deflected. Basically a good enough performance to yet again shut the West Ham fans up – 7.5/10.
  • Joe Cole: Second half he was a real handful and the West Ham defenders had a problem coping with his darting runs and his ability to glide past players. Fantastically cool take for the goal – 8.5/10.
  • Didier Drogba: The best striker, midfielder and combined centre-half in the world. At various parts of the game he played in every one of those positions. Awesome – 8.5/10.
  • Steve Sidwell: Anonymous in the first half, but then who wasn’t? Looked one of the most likely to score until being substituted second half but I firmly believe he will be a big player going forward – 7/10.
  • John Obi Mikel: Lucky to be on the field but in the second half was absolutely magnificent – 8.5/10.
  • Salomon Kalou: He just makes me want to scream. Has undoubted talent but a complete lack of football intelligence and yesterday he might as well have had a Christmas pudding in between his ears rather than a brain – 5/10.
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips (sub): Changed the dynamic of the game when we were already in the ascendancy. Always looked as if he could go past people with ease and even managed to get some good crosses in – 7/10.
  • Overall team performance: Overall a hard fought and well deserved win against a team that could have been a potential banana skin – 7.5/10.

Man of the Match

Three players in with a shout for this – Mikel, Joe Cole and Drogba. My choice of Joe Cole caused some dissention on this blog last time, but he did score the goal yesterday. Mikel was lucky to even be on the pitch in order to be in line for this prestigious award. So, a tough choice then!

Didier Drogba, for your all round ability to be a pest, a handful and to create chances as well as take them, please accept a virtual bouquet of Chelsea True Blue roses.

Final thoughts

I had the hangover from hell on arrival at the American Café (which logically of course is Cypriot) for my usual pre-match meal and a slight tingling in the stomach caused by the very real worry that West Ham might spring a nasty little surprise. By half time I just wanted to go to sleep, but not because of the hangover but because of the slops that were served up as an excuse for football. But the boys came good straight from the off for the second half and this was a real game of football, with passion and flair on display. After last year’s rollercoaster I think it’s fair to say West Ham will be safely mid-table this year and if we’re honest they could have taken the draw against us but for Joe’s goal and a clever “benefit of the doubt” decision form the linesman.

14 games unbeaten and the home record stretches to 70 games, which is phenomenal by any standards. In yesterday’s Guardian it was alleged that the players have decided to get back to winning because it was a happy place back then. It also alleged that Grant doesn’t take the training sessions, so one can’t help but wonder what is giving us this form. I’m not complaining but something is nagging me about what is going on. I think we’ll find out when we play Arsenal. In the meantime we’ve crept up quietly on the rails and for a short while lie second. Has anyone else also noticed just how little press coverage we warrant these days? Any stories published now seem to be the signs of a desperate press scraping the journalistic barrel of fact in order to stir something up. Could this have been Roman’s plan all along?

If it keeps us where we are then long may it continue.

Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!

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