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Chelsea 1 West Ham Utd 0

Filed: Saturday, 1st December 2007
By: Matthew O'Greel

West Ham suffered their first defeat on the road since the beginning of October thanks to a contentious Joe Cole effort.

An offside Cole was allowed to play on after being sent clear by Salomon Kalou to notch the only goal of the game with just fourteen minutes left on the clock.

The Hammers went into today's game having gone five games unbeaten in all competitions, and from the start showed that they were to be no pushovers for a team seeking to extend their unbeaten run at home to an astonishing 70 matches.

The first 45 minutes of this somewhat-muted lunchtime kick-off was memorable only for the amount of yellow cards shown by referee Howard Webb.

The Yorkshire-based official booked two Chelsea players and three Hammers during a half in which United just about came out on top.

The game began quietly, and Didier Drogba's curling effort wide of Rob Green's left-hand post was the only shot in the opening 20 minutes.

Meanwhile West Ham had to wait until the 32nd minute before their first effort on goal; Nobby Solano's deft lob dropping on top of Carlo Cudicini's net.

The Peruvian had a second chance to open the scoring two minutes later when teed up by Luis Boa Morte on the edge of the box. Unfortunately the former Newcastle man could only fire over the bar.

West Ham's final chance of the half came from a Solano free kick wide on the right, but Matthew Upson - sporting the kind of beard Billy Bonds would have been proud of - couldn't connect fully and saw his effort drift wide.

Chelsea's second - and final chance of the half came three minutes from the break when a Frank Lampard corner was met by the head of Drogba at the far post. However Rob Green was well placed to pluck the African's effort out of the air.

The home side appeared to have received something of a roasting (nothing new for the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard, of course) at half time as they came out of the blocks the quicker in the second half.

Matthew Upson had to be alert to block a goalbound effort from Steve Sidwell just two minutes into the second 45, whilst a minute later it was Danny Gabbidon who was on hand to avert a dangerous cross from Joe Cole.

Meanwhile referee Webb showed no signs of refraining from hoisting his yellow card aloft at every available oppourtunity by making Chelsea's Belletti the sixth man to receive a caution on 54 minutes.

West Ham's first chance of the second half came a minute later when Nobby Solano missed possibly United's best chance of the game when he failed to find the net with a close range header.

With the home crowd becoming increasingly restless the Hammers continued to take full advantage of their lacklustre opponents and Luis Boa Morte went close again with another effort on 62 minutes.

However Rob Green was called on once again less than 30 seconds later to pluck another dangerous cross from former Hammer Cole out of the air.

Undaunted, the Hammers worked their way forward again - supported with every touch being cheered by a noisy away following - and Scott Parker should have done better after some good work between Matthew Etherington and Carlton Cole left him with an opening on the edge of the box.

New Chelsea boss Avram Grant had seen enough by this stage and decided to ring the changes by introducing Shaun Wright-Phillips for the disappointing Sidwell midway through the half.

However it made little difference to a West Ham side brimming with confidence and they could have snatched a goal a minute later had Matthew Etherington taken a chance instead of dithering on the ball inside the Chelsea penalty box.

The bouyant away fans were given further reason for cheer on 70 minutes when Frank Lampard, the scourge of the East End became the seventh player booked for a late challenge on Boa Morte. It was however slightly disappointing that referee Webb decided to blow for the foul as Hayden Mullins was racing away unguarded into the Chelsea half at the time.

With the game entering it's final 20 minutes Chelsea began to increase their urgency, presumably finally waking up to the fact that if they were to win the game they would have to start playing.

John Terry was inches away from opening the scoring on 72 when a Lampard effort took a wicked deflection into the path of the errant England skipper; Rob Green's quick-thinking in closing down the Chelsea captain had a major part in the ball flying wide of his far post.

With Nobby Solano visibly tiring after another fully-committed performance Alan Curbishley made his first change of the day replacing the Peruvian international with Freddie Ljungberg, making his first appearance in a claret and blue shirt since West Ham's last away defeat at Aston Villa on 6th October.

THere was no obvious connection between the two events, but less than two minutes later Chelsea were ahead - albeit in the most controversial of circumstances. A Carlo Cudicini goal kick was nodded on by Drogba to Kalou. The African nodded the ball behind the advancing United defenders, and Joe Cole rounded Rob Green to give the home side a priceless lead.

West Ham were incensed; they felt that Cole had been offside, but their pleas were ignored by Webb who allowed the goal to stand. TV replays confirmed that Cole was indeed in an offside when the ball was played; once again, a major decision had gone the way of one of the 'big four'.

The 'goal' appeared to take the stuffing out of the Hammers, and if anyone was to score again it was more likely to be the home side who finally began to look like a team capable of challenging for the title.

Yet there was still time for the Hammers to grab a more-than-deserved equaliser; sadly Dean Ashton - on as a replacement for Matthew Etherington - spurned his side's two final chances of the game.

So West Ham suffer their first defeat in six games, although they can take heart from a performance which, for much of the game, saw them better a Chelsea side whom many still favour to win the league title again this year.

Match Facts

West Ham Utd: Green, Neill, Gabbidon, Upson, McCartney, Solano (Ljungberg 74), Parker (Spector 78), Mullins, Etherington (Ashton 79), Boa Morte, C.Cole.

Subs not used: Wright, Collins.

Booked: Etherington (25), Solano (34), Boa Morte (45).

Chelsea: Cudicini, Belletti, Alex, Terry, Bridge, Sidwell, Mikel, Lampard, J.Cole (Makelele 89), Kalou, Drogba.

Subs not used: Hilario, Ben-Haim, Shevchenko.

Booked: Mikel (37), Kalou (41), Belletti (54), Lampard (70), Terry (85).

Goals: J.Cole (76).

Referee: Howard Webb.

Attendance: 41,830.

KUMB Man of the Match: Matthew Upson.

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by Timbo
03:13PM 1st Dec 2007
''Unlucky but we've got to start with Ashton if we don't want to lose him (see skysports.com interview in week)...''

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