Sunday, 9th April 2006
Chelsea - who are now just one win away from retaining their Premiership title - had been reduced to ten men as early as the 17th minute when midifelder Maniche was dismissed for a nasty tackle on Lionel Scaloni.
Yet the Hammers - who also had the benefit of leading 1-0 at that point - inexplicibly fell apart after the sending-off, and the Blues deservedly recorded their second win over Alan Pardew's side this season.
West Ham - who had spent the best part of the week on a supposed team-building exercise in Dubai (minus Israeli's Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan who weren't allowed to join their team mates) - looked anything but refreshed and can probably count themselves lucky not to have conceded more, in what was possibly their worst performance of the season.
However things had looked so much brighter after just 10 minutes when James Collins rose highest to nod home a corner into Petr Cech's near-hand post, giving the visitors an unexpected early lead.
Maniche's dismissal for an over the top challenge followed seven minutes later but instead of lifting the Hammers it had the opposite effect, and the home side were level just 11 minutes later when Didier Drogba scored at the near post at the second attempt.
Just three minutes later Chelsea were ahead through Hernan Crespo, who scored from close range after a poor clearanace from the usually-reliable Danny Gabbidon, who was one of many way below par.
The Hammers reacted by sending Marlon Harewood to partner Dean Ashton up front in the second half, but it had little effect as Chelsea continued to control the game. The third goal arrived just nine minutes into the second half when more poor defending allowed Essien to hit the bar from close range before Barking-born John Terry netted the rebound from six yards.
By now West Ham - who managed just one shot on target in the second period - were in complete disarray, and it was no surprise when William Gallas added a fourth from no more than two yards on 69 minutes with the Hammers defence again static.
Pardew's side created just the one goalscoring opportunity thereafter; that coming when substitute Teddy Sheringham saw a goalbound shot cleared off the line right at the death.
All in all it was a desperately disappointing performance from Alan Pardew's side who, despite the defeat, remain in ninth spot in the table.
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Not at the races and would have conceded more but for the woodwork.
Rarely found time to get forward - and he lost Crespo for Chelsea's second goal. Strangely booed by the home crowd for doing little more than getting in the way of Maniche's boot in the incident that led to the Chelsea player's dismissal.
Got forward as much as possible but posed little threat. Troubled by the pace of Chelsea.
Probably his worst performance of the season. Should have done better with Drogba's shot for the first goal - and was at fault again for the second, giving away possession far too cheaply.
A lovely goal but he struggled to cope with the threat of Crespo and Drogba.
Another who struggled; rarely involved.
One of those days when nothing paid off although the Hammers captain still gave the usual 100%.
Not involved at all, and questions may be asked over the decision to take the rest of the squad away without him and fellow Israeli Yaniv Katan.
Desperately disappointing in a game in which you would have thought he would be keen to make an impression.
Failed to exert any pressure on the likes of Terry and Gallas, although he had a little more luck early on when playing out wide against Del Horno. Very harshly booked in the second-half.
Questions marks have been raised in recent weeks about Ashton's fitness, and more questions will be asked today following an ineffectual performance.
(Replaced Benayoun, 72) Came on for the now-regular cameo and was closest to notching a second Hammers goal when his shot was cleared off the line.
(Replaced Ashton, 84) Had barely warmed up before the final whistle was blown.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Man of the Match: Nigel Reo-Coker.
West Ham United
Shaka Hislop, Lionel Scaloni, Paul Konchesky, Danny Gabbidon, James Collins, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Yossi Benayoun, Matthew Etherington, Marlon Harewood, Dean Ashton.
Goals: James Collins 10 .
Booked: Marlon Harewood 52 Paul Konchesky 68 .
Sent Off: None sent off. .
Cech, Geremi, Del Horno, Gallas, Terry, Makelele, Maniche, Lampard, Essien, Crespo, Drogba.
Substitutes: Robben (Crespo 66), Carvalho (Essien 90), Cole (Drogba (90+2).
Subs not used: Cudicini, Wright-Phillips.
Goals: Drogba (28), Crespo (31), Terry (54), Gallas (69).
Booked: None booked.
Sent Off: Maniche (17).