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FA Premeirship
Sunday, 9th April 2006

Chelsea 4
West Ham United 1

by Gordon Thrower


So a defeat at the club with the Premiership’s most ignorant supporters but it could and should have been so different. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. 12 o’clock on a Sunday is no time to be watching football – especially not after a night celebrating one’s birthday (hence the dark glasses).

Still I’d worked out how to programme the DVD recorder the lovely girlfriend bought me for a present so I was able to record the match so I could watch it again through somewhat clearer once I’d got back from Stamford Bridge. Unfortunately, thanks to NTL’s reluctance to actually provide the full service for which I pay through the nose (Interactive services have been “coming soon” for the last 8 years!) I was sadly lumbered with Sky’s commentary rather than the sight of KUMB regular Romford on “Fanzone”.

A groin strain incurred in Dubai ruled out Ferdinand meaning a return to the right back slot for “Len” Scaloni giving us a starting line-up of Hislop, Scaloni, Konchesky, Collins, Gabbidon, Reo-Coker, Mullins, Etherington, Benayoun, Harewood, Ashton.

The early exchanges were uneventful, though it was noticeable that several Hammers were having difficulty in keeping their feet. This may have been a result of the somewhat suspicious watering of the West Ham end just after the players had left from the warm-up. Strangely the other end was left untouched. Not actually illegal but hardly within the spirit of the game, not that the spirit of the game means much to either Chelsea or its supporters.

On eleven minutes the smug silence of the home-supporting tourists was rudely disturbed. Harewood, playing in that withdrawn right-hand side role that AP often uses him in, won a corner off Del Horno. Benayoun curled a right-footed outswinger and Collins, looking more like a Swan Vesta than ever in the white kit, got across his marker to head home, beating Cech at his near post to send the away support into raptures of delight.

The home response was almost immediately. Ref Foy was conned by a dive from Maniche. He then compounded the error by dragging Scaloni out of position for a quiet word. This allowed Chelsea to take a quick free kick down the left. Collins failed to cut out the cross and Gabbidon did superbly well to clear from in front of goal under pressure the ball came back in but Essien thankfully headed over, though not before Drogba went down theatrically under minimal pressure from Gabbidon. Then Drogba pulled one back for Maniche to hit the bar with Essien heading hilariously wide from the rebound.

Up the other end a ball played up towards Ashton was laid off to Matty whose volley brought a decent save out of Cech.

A minute later the travelling support had even more to cheer. Crespo clearly took the ball out of play but prodded it back in. Scaloni went in for a loose ball and Maniche’s challenge was over the top. So far so that the word “vasectomy” was being bandied about. Ref Foy had no hesitation in showing the red though the obnoxious Mourinho will no doubt come up with some conspiracy theory as to why the laws of the game shouldn’t apply to any players under his management. Drogba appeared to have a little dig at Scaloni whilst the Argentinian was on the ground as well but this was behind the ref’s back and not spotted.

Next up in the discipline stakes was Mullins who picked up a yellow for retaliating to an unpunished arm in the face from Makelele. For the next ten minutes or so we looked fairly comfortable but it was worrying that we hadn’t looked like adding to the total. During this spell the comedy value came from Lampard’s 40 yard free kick that sailed harmlessly wide.

Then the wheels came off. A possibly offside Drogba got on the end of a long ball from the back. Collins blocked the initial shot but Drogba pushed the ball goalbound and Gabbidon could only divert the ball over the line. Things went from bad to worse two minutes later when a deflection off Collins somewhat luckily went straight to Crespo who couldn’t miss from two yards out. Even taking the lead with ten men couldn’t awaken the home crowd from their slumber, though I suppose when you’ve only been supporting a team for one year it must be difficult to know what to do.

Shortly before the interval Shaka kept us in it with a fine block from Drogba who then proceeded to revert to type when conning a free-kick out of the ref when penned in down by his own corner before “winning” another one by backing into Scaloni before falling forward. Sad and predictable.

I used to think I’d seen most things during my travels but half-time at Chelsea stunned even me. At half time Pat Nevin was paraded around for the home support. Amazingly few home supporters knew who he was! It actually had to be explained who one of their better players of the past 20 years was! Incredible.

We needed to be a bit more positive for the second half – though Harewood had ended the first half further forward we didn’t appear to have the belief that was necessary and that would need to change.

Some things didn’t change. Essien’s dive fooled Foy into awarding another free-kick though NRC had clearly taken the ball. Lampard’s shot went comfortably wide. Then, somewhat disgracefully but somehow unsurprisingly, we were treated to the sight of Mourinho waving an imaginary yellow card as Etherington lost his footing in the box. Rank hypocrisy at its worst, especially as Harewood then picked up a card following yet more theatrics, this time from Essien.

On 53 minutes we went 3-1 down. A mishit shot fell kindly in the box to Gallas who hit the bar. It could have gone anywhere but it didn’t. Terry’s shot on the rebound wasn’t the cleanest but the bounce off the ground was enough to beat Hislop. Amazingly the home support finally started to sing. Well it’s easy when you’re 3-1 up I suppose.

Konchesky then went forward whose powerful shot was cleared for a corner, though not before we’d had Gallas rolling around in agony for a minute. Funnily he needed no treatment. Harewood then got on the end of a Konch free-kick only to see the header go wide. The gamesmanship was taken to new depths when Geremi, having given away a throw, feigned injury and crawled onto the pitch to delay things when we were in a promising position having taken the throw quickly. Ashton’s header to Benayoun forced Yossi wide and nothing came from the corner.

Crespo went off with 25 minutes to play. His run to the touchline was the longest he’d gone without diving. Of course this didn’t affect Chelsea too much. Sub Robben is of course a past master at the art of throwing himself to the floor. His latest effort was poor though even by his standards. Not that that stopped ref Foy giving the free-kick and bizarrely booking Konch at the same time. The free–kick went in, bobbled about and ended up at Gallas’ feet to put Chelsea 4-1 up. Another triumph for the art of diving.

Sheringham replaced Yossi with about 15 left but the game was effectively dead by this point. Zamora replaced Ashton with 7 left on the clock and Teddy had one cleared off the line following a clever turn in the box but it was all too little too late. Robben stayed on his feet to put the ball in the net though I expect Mourinho will find something wrong with the correct offside decision in his usual charmless way.

No doubt Sky will have been drooling over Chelsea’s performance – let’s face it they usually do- but to be honest (not a word you hear much at Stamford Bridge admittedly) we beat ourselves. When 1-0 up we failed to keep hold of the ball for long enough and, though the goals we let in were both sloppy and streaky, I felt we asked for it really by not taking the game to them while we had the chance. Mind you the Chelsea – Liverpool match should be interesting I’d love to see a spread bet for the number of dives in that one. Finally memo to Mourinho: If you’re that worried about dying swans why not experiment by not picking them in the first place? Just a thought!



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Player Ratings

Shaka Hislop
Not given much chance with the goals. One good save but might have helped his defence by coming for the ball occasionally.


Lionel Scaloni
If he hadn’t been involved in the sending off we wouldn’t have known the home support was there. Battled gamely.


Paul Konchesky
Harshly booked for blowing Robben over this was one of his better run outs in recent weeks.


Danny Gabbidon
Looked good for most of the match but showed an uncharacteristic hesitancy at set pieces which ultimately proved costly.


James Collins
Strong performance capped by a good header for the goal.


Hayden Mullins
Another who was a bit panicky – got stuck in well but treated the ball as if it were radioactive.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Not at the races today – gave the ball away far too much.


Yossi Benayoun
Failed to make much of an impression apart from the corner that led to the goal.


Matthew Etherington
Was at the heart of some of our better moments and kept trying, though the final delivery into the box was often lacking.


Marlon Harewood
Played wide right early on but failed to cause too many problems – perhaps should have been pushed up earlier.


Dean Ashton
Spent much of the match ploughing a lone furrow up front. When that happens the ball into the striker needs to be accurate to allow him to control it. Too often it was pinged at Deano rather than played to him.


Substitutes


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Benayoun, 72) Unlucky not to score. Might have been a better bet to start if we were set on playing one up.


Bobby Zamora
(Replaced Ashton, 84) A couple of lively runs but the game had already gone.


Jimmy Walker
Did not play.


Clive Clarke
Did not play.


Shaun Newton
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: C.Foy.

Attendance: 41,919.

Man of the Match: James Collins.

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.     .

Chelsea

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).

 
Gordon Thrower's Man of the Match: James Collins


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