West Ham vs. Chelsea @ Upton Park – November 23, 2013

This is mega coach José Mourinho’s second go around with Chelsea and he is still trying to instill a new style of play onto his team.  It is a work in progress with the team looking like world beaters one week while out of sorts the very next.  Chelsea had fallen 7 points behind Arsenal at the beginning of the game, so earning 3 points in this away match was vital for them.  As you might expect against a side that is down near the relegation zone of the Barclay’s Premier League they dominated.  With the win against West Ham United the Blues moved into 3rd place overall and into a much sought after Champions League position just ahead of Tottenham, who lost to Manchester City on the weekend.

Going into the match defensive stability was the key for West Ham.  Their coach Sam Allardyce acknowledged that by going into the game without a true striker.  His hands were rather tied as their striker Andy Carroll is out with a long term injury and the club does not really have the funds of a Chelsea in order to seek out a big name when the transfer window opens again in January.  In other words, they’ll have to make do.  Chelsea striker Fernando Torres is also out with an injury, but it is not affecting the Blues as much due to their depth due to owner Roman Abramovich.  Veteran Samuel Eto’o was slotted into Torres’s spot and he played well.

On this bitterly cold evening in London the game had a spirited beginning to it, but that could have been a sign of players wanting to run around a lot to get warm.  Chelsea was very fluid in the midfield moving the ball around quickly and creating openings for the offensive players.  However, the initial signs were good for the Hammers as they were holding their own and even creating chances of their own.  It was only the last pass that was missing.

Their spirited play put some pressure on the Chelsea defense that played a bend but don’t break game.  They allowed West Ham into their end, but shut them down when they came within striking distance of Petr Cech.  It is not too odd for this to have happened as Chelsea has plenty of experience in the back with John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic.  This was game 12 for Chelsea and the two central defenders have played every minute so far.  The bend but don’t break strategy has not always worked as Chelsea has not been solid in the back so far this season and have conceded more goals than they usually do.  This is a large part of the work in progress for Mourinho.

Over the course of his career at Chelsea 35-year-old midfielder and captain Frank Lampard has scored many a goal for the Blues.  This season goals have been few (1) and far between as it had been 10 games since he last found the back of the net.  This was his longest goal drought in many years.  Sometimes in order to break such a streak you need a gift of a goal and that is just what happened for Lampard.

West Ham was playing well, but the game can change quickly.  Things were going along swimmingly for the Hammers until the 20th minute when right fullback Guy Demel gifted Chelsea a penalty shot.  Demel put his keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen in big trouble with his lazy ball back off his thigh.  Jaaskelainen had to come out and pull down Oscar or it would have been a sure goal.  The referee did not hesitate and pointed to the penalty spot immediately.  Jaaskelainen escaped without a yellow card, however.  Lampard stepped up to the spot in the 21st minute and as he has done many times before scored.  Jaaskelainen dove to his right while Lampard calmly struck the ball with force into the roof of the net on the left.  1-0 Chelsea and it would be the only goal they needed on this evening.

Chelsea doubled their lead in the 34th minute.  Terry started the play just past midfield as he found Lampard.  Lampard played the ball square to the excellent Eden Hazard, who played the ball on to Oscar just outside the 18 yard box.  Oscar dribbled the ball beyond a Hammer defender and even though he slipped as he took the shot he still managed to get his low drive past a diving Jaaskelainen for his 5th goal of the season.

Maybe it was due to the 2nd goal going in and being desperate to shake things up, but Allardyce made an odd move in the 39th minute when he made a double change taking midfielders Joe Cole and Jack Collison off and brought in midfielder Mohamed Diame and forward Modibo Maiga.  Seems like an odd move only 6 minutes before half when he could bring his team in and have a talk with them or make the changes to start the 2nd.  Cole was obviously angry as he strode off the field and straight into the locker room.  Kevin Nolan was moved back into his natural midfield spot with Maiga and Diame being the two most forward players.ll square to the excellent Eden Hazard, who played the ball on to Oscar just outside the 18 yard box.  Oscar dribbled the ball beyond a Hammer defender and even though he slipped as he took the shot he still managed to get his low drive past a diving Jaaskelainen for his 5th goal of the season.

No matter what Allardyce tried or his team did they could not generate any real scoring chances.  Midfielder Stewart Downing was a bright spot for West Ham in the 1st half and with his combination of pace and skill looked like the only one who might create scoring chances.  As he moved from the left side to the right in the 2nd half he became almost invisible as Chelsea fullback César Azpilicueta was able to match his speed.

They played a decent 2nd half, but it wasn’t enough.  West Ham had to commit numbers into the penalty area to try and get a goal.  They are a side that has struggled all season scoring as they only have 9 goals in 11 games.  Their best chance to score came in the 65th minute courtesy of the goat on Chelsea’s 1st goal.  Demel from around the right corner flag got by 3 Chelsea defenders and crossed the ball back across the face of goal.  It really should have been an easy finish for Maiga, but he scuffed his left footed try wide of the left post.

It seemed like Mourinho had released Lampard, who came out of the West Ham Academy, into a more offensive role instead tying him down as a holding midfielder.  He was up with his team and had several chances in the game.  He completed his brace in the 82nd minute which Chelsea fans have to hope with rouse him from his scoring slumber.  The captain took the ball off a rebound from an Hazard shot at the top of the 18 yard box in a central position and directed a first time low shot to the right of a diving Jaaskelainen.

Though the two clubs are separated by only 12 miles in East and West London they are in reality worlds apart.  One (Chelsea) at the top of the fixture while the other is perilously close to the bottom.  West Ham managed its one and only shot in the 3rd minute of added time in the 2nd half via a flicked on header that forced Cech into a good save on what was pretty much the last play of the game.  You are not going to win many games with only 1 shot on goal.  In this London derby Chelsea did well managing the game and the crowd.

Game Stats:

-Goals:  1st Half:

21st minute:  Chelsea – (pk) Frank Lampard

34th minute:  Chelsea – Oscar

2nd Half:

82nd minute:  Chelsea – Frank Lampard

-Shots on Goal:  Chelsea – 8

West Ham – 1

-Corners:  Chelsea – 4

West Ham – 8

-Man of the Match:  Oscar – Chelsea

-Attendance:  34,977

-Final Score:  Chelsea – 3

West Ham – 0

 

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