Brilliant Blues Crush Hammers (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 4 West Ham United 1
Chelsea picked up the gauntlet which had been thrown down by Manchester United in recent weeks with a hugely impressive 4-1 win over West Ham United.
The Chelsea juggernaut has stuttered in recent weeks and it did not look good on Sunday, as they slipped behind to a James Collins header and then saw Nuno Maniche red carded.
There has been talk of rifts having been formed in the Chelsea camp, but the ten who remained on the field gave a superb impression of a united front, as they produced some fantastic football and simply steamrollered their way over West Ham.
Didier Drogba scored one and set up another for Hernan Crespo in two breathless minutes before the break and John Terry, so often a driving force, made the game safe with a volleyed effort before the hour and William Gallas netted a fourth 21 minutes from time.
Manchester United have claimed they are ready to pounce on any mistakes by The Blues, but this effort appears to suggest that the West Londonders are ready to fire once again and that could take the title away from the grasp of the North West giants.
Chelsea's form has been extremely patchy in recent weeks, prompting Jose Mourinho to shuffle his pack, and the decision appeared to reap dividends, as Drogba and Michael Essien shot goalwards inside five minutes.
However, The Blues were rocked onto their heels on ten minutes, as Collins headed Yossi Benayoun's corner delightfully into the top corner.
The goal sparked a response from Chelsea, with Frank Lampard setting Asier Del Horno free down the left. The Spaniard delivered a sublime cross into the middle of the six-yard box, but Crespo was denied a tap-in by a superb clearance from Danny Gabbidon and Essien headed the return ball over.
Drogba was the next player to get beyond the West Ham backline and he showed good awareness to pick out Maniche in the box, but the Portuguese smashed his shot against the bar and Essien, again, headed the rebound wide.
Moments after Petr Cech had gathered Dean Ashton's shot at the second attempt, things got worse for Mourinho's side as Maniche was shown a straight red card by referee Chris Foy for an over-the-top tackle on Lionel Scaloni.
It was breathless stuff at The Bridge and only a fine interception from John Terry denied Benayoun a run on goal, as The Hammers attempted to utilise their numerical superiority.
Chelsea were not fazed by going a man down and Drogba drew them level with a goal from nothing. The Ivorian latched onto a long ball from Lampard and found the back of the net at the second attempt, having seen his initial effort blocked by a combination of Collins and Shaka Hislop.
Drogba does not have many fans outside of Stamford Bridge, but he increased his standing in West London when turning provider two minutes after levelling the scores.
The former Marseille man turned on the edge of the box and hit a cross-shot which found Crespo with the aid of a deflection from Collins and the Argentine stabbed home from six yards.
Chelsea appeared to be playing with 12 rather than 10 and a quicksilver break down the right resulted in Geremi delivering an exquisite ball into the box for Drogba but, after taking the ball down superbly on his chest, he just failed to lift his shot over Hislop.
Chelsea continued to carry the game to West Ham after the interval and, moments after Drogba had had an effort charged down by Paul Konchesky, Terry fired the home side into a two-goal lead.
William Gallas rattled the bar from 12 yards, but the danger was not over for West Ham and Terry slammed a shot into the corner.
West Ham still held hope at 3-1, but Marlon Harewood passed up a decent opportunity when heading wide from six yards just past the hour and the belief appeared to drain away from the visitors.
Drogba epitomised the Chelsea display on Sunday and he played a key role in the fourth, as he refused to be knocked off the ball in the corner and this resulted in Arjen Robben being tumbled over by Konchesky.
The resulting free kick saw Drogba again win a header he had no right to get to and Gallas was on hand to poke home their fourth.
The Blues were able to coast through the final 15 minutes, although Teddy Sheringham did have a late shot cleared off the line by Gallas, with Mourinho content to put his feet up and relax on the bench safe in the knowledge that displays such as this will ensure the Premiership title is retained.
|Chelsea||Team Statistics||West Ham United|
|2||1st Half Goals||1|
|5||Shots on Target||3|
|7||Shots off Target||2|
Cech, Del Horno, Gallas, Terry, Essien (Carvalho
90), Geremi, Lampard, Makelele, Maniche, Crespo (Robben 66), Drogba (J. Cole 90)
Subs Not Used Cudicini, Wright-Phillips
Sent Off Maniche
Goals Drogba 28, Crespo 31, Terry 54, Gallas 69
West Ham United
Hislop, Collins, Gabbidon, Konchesky, Mullins,
Benayoun (Sheringham 72), Etherington, Reo-Coker, Scaloni, Ashton (Zamora 84),
Subs Not Used Walker, Clarke, Newton
Booked Harewood, Konchesky