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West Ham 0-1 Chelsea


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West Ham United 0-1 Chelsea F.C.

Saturday 25th April 2009, Premier League, Upton Park, East London

WestHam-PetrCech.jpg
Chelsea's Petr Cech brilliantly denies Mark Noble's penalty with a stunning save.

Petr Cech's crucial penalty save earned Chelsea a deserved victory over West Ham.


Salomon Kalou converted a Frank Lampard cross in the second half to give Chelsea a crucial advantage, but it was the intervention of Petr Cech that earned the Blues a deserved three points after he flung himself to his left to deny Mark Noble from the penalty spot after Kalou was harshly penalised for a push. The Czech also denied Keiron Dyer twice from close range and John Mikel Obi cleared off the line as Chelsea effectively guaranteed Champions League football next term.

The result is a welcome confidence boost ahead of a difficult away game at the Nou Camp against Barcelona next week, but Guus Hiddink's side will go there with much confidence after securing their seventh win in nine Premier League matches under the Dutch tactician. And with the game against the La Liga leaders in mind, the Chelsea manager elected to field Jose Bosingwa at left back, with Ashley Cole suspended for the European tie. Michael Mancienne came in at right-back with Alex rested, meaning Branislav Ivanovic moved to his preferred position at centre-half. Michael Ballack and Michael Essien joined Didier Drogba on the bench as John Mikel Obi, Juliano Belletti and the aforementioned Kalou returned to the starting eleven.

Despite conceding that his side's title chances were now at an end, Hiddink encouraged his players to put in a decent shift and Chelsea's commitment to attack was underlined early on when the in-form Malouda tried an audacious effort from range that flew wide of the mark. No more than a half-chance for the black-kitted visitors, but it was a sign of things to come as Chelsea's approach to the game suggested they had precious little to lose.

Much of the opening exchanges passed without incident, although Nicolas Anelka did have a shot blocked on the edge of the area as the first five minutes passed away into nothingness. At the other end, West Ham mustered a response when Lucas Neill lofted a diagonal ball for Diego Tristan to chase, but a heavy touch off the thigh of the former Spanish international saw the chance wasted. Malouda then flashed an effort inches wide of the target in what was arguably the Blues' best chance of the first 45 minutes. Latching onto a Lampard pass, the Frenchman beat Robert Green with his drive, but also the far post as the score remained at 0-0.

Keiron Dyer then shot straight at Cech from close range after Tristan's touch had beaten John Terry on the edge of the penalty box before Lampard volleyed wide of Green's upright. The game had an end-of-season feel to it, despite both clubs playing for European qualification; Chelsea looking to guarantee Champions League football and West Ham chasing Fulham for a place in next season's Europa League. Nicolas Anelka drove wide as Chelsea looked to press home the advantage their dominance of possession deserved, but against the run of play, it was West Ham who created the first half's best opportunity.

Mark Noble took a corner which Cech failed to deal with after being blocked by a host of players in the six yard box, and only a Mikel clearance denied Tristan the opening goal as he stabbed goalwards. The Nigerian was well-placed at Cech's near post, and scrambled the ball away for the imperious Ivanovic to hack away.

The second half started similarly to the first; with Chelsea dominating and playing mostly inside the West Ham half. The Blues had been the better team throughout and should have already been ahead by the time they did take the lead after 55 minutes. Frank Lampard, the former West Ham midfielder, had had a torrid week. Criticised unfairly by self-righteous, chauvinistic radio presenters whilst mourning the one-year anniversary of his mother's death, it was fitting that the Chelsea number 8 should provide the cross for the winning goal. Racing to the bye-line, he cut back and chipped a delightful ball to the far stick. One Kalou touch and finish later, Chelsea were leading and thoroughly warranted their goal.

Cech then immediately denied Dyer once again before Anelka was unfortunate when the rebound to his own shot ricocheted off him and out of play after his pace had fashioned a chance that was subsequently saved well by Robert Green, who, like his opposite number, was making another solid performance between the posts.

West Ham were then awarded a soft penalty for a tug by Kalou. Hérita Ilunga played a disguised one-two in the box and fell dramatically as Kalou made minimal contact with his arm, but the referee pointed to the spot regardless. Up stepped Mark Noble, who had already found the net with four penalties this season already. Cech dived to his left and snaked out a palm to deny a well-struck penalty by the West Ham midfielder as he parried the ball behind for a fruitless corner to the hosts. Brilliant goalkeeping by the Chelsea number 1, which will surely fill him with confidence ahead of the Barcelona clash.

Michael Mancienne went off shortly after as Chelsea looked to sure up the midfield; Michael Ballack replacing the young defender. Michael Essien had entered the field of play moments before for goalscorer Kalou, and after returning from a hamstring injury, Jose Bosingwa was substituted off for Ashley Cole. The Portuguese had put in a decent shift at left-back, although Lionel Messi will offer a slightly more difficult proposition than the quiet Luis Boa Morte on Tuesday night. Cole, whose only Chelsea goal came here last season, clipped the crossbar after he and Malouda had combined, but Cech's penalty save had knocked the stuffing out of West Ham as the lively Essien combined with Mikel to frustrate the Hammers and saw Chelsea safely play the remainder of the game in relative comfort.

Three most-welcomed points give the Blues a nine point advantage over fourth-placed Arsenal, who play on Sunday. A first London derby win in the League follows the Wembley heroics against the Gunners in the FA Cup last weekend, and another victory against rivals Fulham would see Chelsea turn their fortunes around against London opposition almost instantaneously. Come on the Blues!

___________________________________________________________________

The TalkChelsea.net Star Man award goes to...

WestHam-Lampard.jpg

Frank Lampard, Chelsea F.C.

Former West Ham star Frank Lampard was brilliant once again in midfield; supplying the cross for Kalou's finish.

Match fact - Chelsea's victory over West Ham was their first triumph in a Premier League derby this season.

Chelsea: Cech; Mancienne (Ballack), Ivanovic, Terry ©, Bosingwa (A Cole); Belletti, Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Essien), Anelka, Malouda

West Ham: Green; Neill ©, Tomkins, Upson, Ilunga; Boa Morte (Savio), Dyer (Sears), Noble, Stanislas; Di Michele (Kovac), Tristan


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