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Premiership
Saturday, 18th November 2006

Chelsea 1
West Ham United 0

by Nick Bull


‘Oooh, smell the prawn sarnies’ was my first thought as I entered the Bridge. Everything I hate about this new Chelsea was evident on Saturday, and with the Icelandic takeover seemingly imminent, I hope and pray our beloved club retains what it is about. The foreign accents were rife, people on the tube were trying to sound intelligible about the beautiful game, and I got charged £3 for a Cornish pasty inside the ground. I won’t even mention the atmosphere. Welcome to Abramovich’s Chelsea.

If I said I was looking forward to the game, I’d be lying. Eight goals in the last two games – especially the four against a good Aston Villa team – was a daunting prospect. Add the facts that last week’s display at the Riverside was a disgrace, and the nature of the capitulation at Chelsea last season, I was not enthused about the match. Being charged £48 to get in hardly helped matters.

Come full – time, I left West London feeling rather satisfied with the side’s display. The result wasn’t too bad; I would have been content with a two-nil defeat before the game. However, a part of me felt a little gutted about losing. Whilst expecting a difficult ninety minutes, the performance gave me faith, and with an end product up front I feel obliged to say a point may have been taken.

Arguably, that sums up the season. Chelsea were giving West Ham large areas to play, though the clear inability to cross a ball / beat the first man hindered any goal scoring opportunities. Etherington on the left had one of his best games thus far in this campaign yet he was a main offender of the final ball syndrome floating around the Boleyn at the moment. Despite this, the midfield battled well throughout, and luckily they did not roll over for the home side. Tevez – who I am convinced is not fully match fit yet – endeavoured down the right hand side, and did ok considering everything facing him. Surely he’ll get a go in his favoured position soon. Instead, this role on Saturday fell to Bowyer, whose attempts to support Zamora up top were not rewarded despite his energetic performance. Neither him or the Argentinean are right sided players, but for an attacking prospect I would have played Carlos in the centre. Reo – Coker and Mullins were not afraid to get stuck into their Chelski equivalents, though their second half bookings were as fair as domestic violence.

Ultimately, refereeing inability cost West Ham a chance of getting something out of the game. It is scary to think Mike Dean could have overseen the FA Cup final in May. His performance was out of the Wayne Quinn talent school. Issuing four yellow cards to Chelsea’s one (Big Fat Frank, luckily) suggests a bias to the team in blue. And the goal should be put down to a Dean assist too. Admittedly I have not seen the highlights of the game, but from where I was in the Shed Upper, Gabbidon won the ball. I could not care for all the plaudits Didier Drogba is receiving from the press this season. He is a cheat. That fact takes precedence over any other piece of credit. Sure Geremi’s free-kick was well struck (Green, where were you?!?!), however the aftertaste was pretty vile. Lucky Lucky Chelsea.

The second half was more of the same. The Blues seemed strongest when breaking; the well-organised defence prevented any clear cut chances, and when Chelsea did get past the back four, up went the linesman’s flag. Slowly but surely, the defence are giving out confidence which releases a positive feeling in me. Back from injury, Anton looked assured and did not even pick up a booking for his efforts. Unlucky with the goal, Gabbidon did not buckle and rose to produce his best performance of the season. Between them, the pair managed to keep Drogba and Shevchenko - £60 odd million’s worth of ‘talent’ – quiet. Spector is blossoming to be a very competent right back, he has taken his second chance in that position and now Painstil and Mears are a long way from his recent standards. Prior to Tottenham, where he was dropped for the Ghanaian, I was unsure about the Manchester United trainee. Now, he is one of the leading lights in claret and blue.

For all the commitment and passion shown, the lack of clear-cut chances wore away any possibility of salvaging a point. Zamora never really got into the game, but he held the ball up well when needed. Replaced in the second half, Sheringham and Harewood were bought on to cause Terry and Carvalho problems, alas to no avail.

In the end, coming away from Stamford Bridge with a one-nil defeat is something most teams would embrace. European Champions Barcelona lost by the same score line, and were barely at the races that day. The ground is a fortress for Chelsea, so West Ham can take credit for their display. The same can be said for the travelling faithful – despite being robbed of a ridiculous sum to see the game, they sang their hearts out and made the Plastics out to be glory hunters. Which indeed they are.

Since I have been writing this, more details about the Magnusson takeover are emerging. With new owners at the club, it seems ironic that the last game under Terrance Brown was a defeat at Chelsea, a club themselves who have experienced foreign investment. Here’s hoping that the casual glory-hunting fan doesn’t find a home at the Boleyn. I, for one, don’t enjoy the smell of prawns.



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Player Ratings

Robert Green
Perhaps at fault with the goal, Green dealt with everything else thrown his way – which was surprisingly little.


Jonathan Spector
Very sound defensively. Gets better with pretty much every game that passes.


Paul Konchesky
Similar to Spector – had a good game dealing with Chelsea’s attacking threat.


Anton Ferdinand
Solid by Anton, but firmly in the shadow of his centre-back partner.


Danny Gabbidon
Much better from the Gabbidon of a few weeks back. Very secure, and did not deserve to be punished for a tame free-kick.


Hayden Mullins
Mullins did what he is asked to do. Yes – he may not create much, but that isn’t his job.


Nigel Reo-Coker
Should have been the creative force, but the Captain rarely troubled the Chelsea defence.


Lee Bowyer
His efforts unfortunately did not contribute to anything noteworthy.


Matthew Etherington
Poor with his final ball; despite this Etherington had one of his best games this season. Not afraid to go forward and take on his man.


Carlos Tevez
Playing out of position again, tried in vain to give Cashley Cole a hard game.


Bobby Zamora
Bobby’s work rate cannot be faulted again.


Substitutes


Marlon Harewood
(Replaced Zamora, 71) Did little of note.


Teddy Sheringham
(Replaced Bowyer, 81) One nice lay off in the dying moments, and that’s about it.


George McCartney
(Replaced Etherington, 81) Like too many others, good positioning and attacking bursts were let down by poor crossing.


Gabor Kiraly
Did not play.


Christian Dailly
Did not play.



Match Facts

Referee: M.Dean.

Attendance: 41,916.

Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon.

West Ham United

Robert Green, Jonathan Spector, Paul Konchesky, Anton Ferdinand, Danny Gabbidon, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Lee Bowyer, Matthew Etherington, Carlos Tevez, Bobby Zamora.

Goals: None.

Booked: Danny Gabbidon 21 Nigel Reo-Coker 68 Hayden Mullins 71 Carlos Tevez 74    .

Sent Off: None sent off.     .

Chelsea

Cudicini, Geremi, Carvalho, Terry, Cole, Makelele, Essien, Lampard, Robben, Drogba, Shevchenko..

Substitutes: Boulahrouz (Carvalho 45), Cole (Shevchenko 69), Mikkel (Robben 84)..

Subs not used: Hilario, Wright-Phillips..

Goals: Geremi (22)..

Booked: Lampard (18)..

Sent Off: None sent off..

 
Nick Bull's Man of the Match: Danny Gabbidon


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