Chelsea 1 West Ham United 0
Saturday, 18th November 2006
by Jacob Steinberg
If the Premiership is truly the best league in the world then Sky Sports may wish to destroy all evidence that this match ever took place, perhaps in a Soviet Union Big Brother-esque restyling of history. They could probably ask Russian Roman Abramovich for tips on how to accomplish it.If they do, although I suspect they won't, perhaps they could also ask old Roman what possible enjoyment is garnered from the elimination of competition in the Most Exciting League Ever?,,?. Jose Mourinho may have constructed consecutive title winning sides at Stamford Bridge, but grinding out victories with set piece goals hardly gets the pulse racing.
Where's the panache Jose? Where's it all gone? Roman, is there any chance you could invest some money into finding some?
But enough preaching, and enough pleading. Far be it from me to suggest watching Chelsea is as interesting as listening to the honourable Ashley Cole's views on the minimum wage.
Still, Chelsea were nudged into their tedium by an ordinary and safe performance from a West Ham side whose main goal- not a word they use on away days these days- was to keep the result respectable.
This was achieved with the use of Bobby Zamora as a lone striker and a five man midfield which included Carlos Tevez. Tevez was starting his first match in over a month. Marooned on the right side, he gave the impression that he was trying too hard, and with a gaggle of Chelsea players watching his every move, he found the challenge tough.
The only goal stood out like Russell Brand at a Tory Party Conference. Following Danny Gabbidon's desperate foul on Didier Drogba, Geremi stepped up and curled the ball past Robert Green and into the top corner. Arjen Robben then might have done better than shoot wide after Drogba caused more confusion.
Despite good running from Matthew Etherington, West Ham's tactic of sending deep crosses into the box rarely looked like testing the home side with Zamora out of his depth, although Ashley Cole had to be alert to block Nigel Reo Coker's shot at the far post.
The second half did not hint at improvement from either side. Frank Lampard, desperate to score against his former club and silence the taunts of the away fans, regularly took aim, but his shooting was as off for his club as it is for his country. Michael Essien went closer than Lampard but his effort clipped the post.
Chelsea thought they had wrapped the game up with seven minutes remaining, but Drogba, set up by Joe Cole's probing pass, was offside. One-nil may have looked like a dangerous scoreline, but even with Teddy Sheringham and Marlon Harewood introduced to help Tevez, an equaliser for West Ham was never on the cards, with Carlo Cudicini, probably as bored as the crowd, more likely to be tested during a walk through Reading.
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Player RatingsRobert Green
Although he didn't have much to do, I was a little sceptical about his effort to save the goal. A perfectly positioned free kick, but was our keeper in the right place?
Had the thankless task of keeping Robben quiet and he did well.
Defensively sound but his crossing and passing was abysmal.
An imposing performance.
Foul on Drogba aside, Gabbidon continued to maintain his recent revival.
A decent defensive display but the onus to create fell upon him too much- and ultimately proved beyond him.
Outstrengthed and outthought by Essien.
Sprayed the ball around nicely but to little effect. Tried to support Zamora.
An excellent game. Full of running and constantly caused Chelsea trouble. If anyone was going to create a goal for us today, it was Etherington. His best performance of the season.
Wasted on the right. But he took too much time on the ball when he could have influenced the game better. Give him games!
Never got into the game.
(Replaced Zamora, 71) Struggled to make an impact.
(Replaced Bowyer, 81) The ball fell to him at the back post and I thought... maybe? But his touch let him down, and that was the only time he was really involved.
(Replaced Etherington, 81) Tried to get forward in the little time he was on. Put some good crosses in.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest 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.
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..
Subs not used: Hilario, Wright-Phillips..
Goals: Geremi (22)..
Booked: Lampard (18)..
Sent off: None.
Man of the Match: Matthew Etherington.