It was never going to be a classic, with the pikey boys from East London looking to kick lumps out of us wherever possible, and the pitch resembling a gypsy caravan site, it was always going to be a battle.
Thankfully in Michael Essien, we have the ultimate warrior for such occasions. Strong, quick, skilful and as we found out on Saturday, not too bad with his head either!
Chelsea got off to the perfect start in only the 2nd minute of the game as Didier Drogba, in the absence of West Ham favourite Frank Lampard, took the first corner of the match, crossing a sublime ball in to the box where Essien out jumped everyone to head past the disparing Rob Green to make it 1-0.
It was the perfect start for Chelsea, giving an immediate cushion to what was expected, goal apart, and delivered by West Ham; a physical and high tempo opening with pressure in the middle closing down as often as possible, with ex Chelsea man Scott Parker making most of the running.
West Ham played a narrow diamond formation that allowed us to utilise Ferreira and Cole as the wing backs to provide width. Ramires, making his full début, showed some good early touches and passing but as the half drew on tired slightly. With Kalou replacing Malouda for this match, the middle wasn’t as cohesive as it had been in games before.
It was again Drogba who turned provider though, with an ambitious 35 yard free-kick towards goal and it looked a simple save for Rob Green, however the calamity keeper spilled the shot and as Upson tried to clear it, he smashed the ball into Kalou’s ankle only for the ball to rebound over Green to make it 2-0 to Chelsea.
West Ham rallied but by half time had nothing to show for their efforts other than a few chances, with Obinna spectacularly woeful hitting a shot out for a throw in at one point and a Carlton Cole goal ruled out correctly for offside. Even Mikel managed to crack the post with a shot Drogba would have been proud of, but it remained at 2-0 as the teams went in at half time.
With no changes for Chelsea, and only one for West Ham at the break (Kieron Dyer, remember him?), the match kicked off again to West Ham pressure being held back by the dominant Chelsea defence, and counter attacking moves as we broke well and often. Ramires had an effort not far off, and despite looking tired as the first half wore on, he seemed to grow in stature as the game progressed.
Kakuta entered the fray on the 75th minute and after initially falling on his backside, then showed some nice touches and was looking to get involved wherever possible, setting up Drogba for a chance that 99 times out of 100 he would have finished, sadly for Didier this was the one time he didn’t. The third goal came after a flowing piece of play saw the impressive Ferreira pick up the ball to the right of the West Ham area, send in a lovely cross and it was again Essien on the end of it who headed home to make it 3-0 and pretty much end the game.
It wasn’t over though, and West Ham rallied. Late on a cross into the box was punched clear by Cech, yet only reached Parker on the outside of the area who coolly lobbed the ball back into the area, over Cech and into the net to make it 3-1, and the first goal Chelsea have conceded in the league this season.
Goal scorer Essien, when asked about Mikel utilising the holding role said after the match; “I really enjoy playing on the right side, it gives me more freedom to go forward and come back and defend and I really enjoy it. It has been a long wait for me and I had to do a lot of work to get fit but that is all over. There are no pains in the knees and I am really happy to be back and enjoying my football.”
The Ghanian added; “We still have a lot to do. The season is very long but we have played some good football and are scoring a lot of goals and we have to keep going like that.”
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry (c) (Alex 81), Cole; Essien, Mikel, Ramires; Kalou (Malouda 83), Drogba, Anelka (Kakuta 75).