West Ham 1 – 1 Chelsea
By Phil Dawkes
Chelsea failed to capitalise fully on Manchester United’s shock defeat at Fulham as they drew at West Ham.
The Hammers took the lead just before half-time when Jack Collison was fouled by Ashley Cole and Alessandro Diamanti converted the resulting penalty.
Chelsea’s equaliser also came from the spot after Matthew Upson was harshly judged to have fouled Daniel Sturridge.
Frank Lampard was made to take the penalty three times but kept his cool to ensure the visitors grabbed a point.
Whilst a draw is not the ideal result for Chelsea, it caps a good week for them, after their win at Portsmouth on Wednesday and United’s loss at Craven Cottage.
The Blues now hold a four-point lead at the top of the Premier League ahead of the important Christmas period.
In contrast, West Ham remain in the relegation zone, but boss Gianfranco Zola will take heart from the manner in which his side battled against superior opposition.
The Hammers had lost their previous three matches heading into this fixture but did not look a side short of spirit.
Lampard and fellow ex-Hammer Joe Cole were largely at the centre of all that was positive about what was, in truth, a lacklustre Chelsea display.
The latter set up the former for the first effort of the match – a 25-yard drive which Robert Green saved comfortably.
Later in the half, Lampard released Didier Drogba following a quick free-kick, but the Ivory Coast striker fired wide.
These, along with a Branislav Ivanovic header from a corner, cleared off the line by Scott Parker, were as close as the visitor’s came to a first-half goal.
In contrast, West Ham’s first-half endeavour was rewarded when Ashley Cole felled Collison in the box and Diamanti dispatched the penalty with aplomb.
It was inevitable, considering the stakes for both side’s, that the second half would be a frantic and nervy affair – and so it proved.
We only deserved a draw – Ancelotti
Within minutes of the restart, Drogba had almost pulled the Blues level, collecting a long kick from goalkeeper Petr Cech near the touchline and firing an audacious, dipping shot that looped over Green but just past the far post.
Chelsea were level in controversial circumstances not long after.
Lampard found half-time replacement Sturridge in the box, and he went to ground under a lunging tackle from Upson.
The referee’s assistant immediately signalled for a penalty, and Mike Dean pointed to the spot despite protestations from the West Ham players.
Lampard was forced to take the penalty three times by Dean because of players encroaching in the box, but the England international scored each time.
Chelsea pushed hard for a winner, but it is a testimony to the home side that the league leaders fashioned so few true goalscoring chances.
Joe Cole’s ballooned shot over the bar was as good a chance as fell their way.
West Ham could also have claimed a winner, but Cech was a match for a stinging drive from Diamanti.
West Ham boss Gianfranco Zola:
“The performance was magnificent – the enthusiasm, the passion, the character, it was all remarkable. We got a point, but it should’ve been more.
“I’ve seen the penalty decision again and it was not correct. I think the referee saw it right in the beginning, but the linesman made him change his mind. We needed that to go our way – it’s a pity but we can’t do anything about that.
“All we can do is build on all the positives we got from today. It is important we make these performances a habit – if we do that there are no limits to do what we can achieve.”
Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti:
“We didn’t play well, the first half was not good and the draw was the right result. In the second half we were stronger and had more intensity.
“I don’t like to judge the work of the referee because I am not a referee.
“Now is not the best moment (for Chelsea) but every team has problems in this period. There are a lot of matches every three days and it is not easy to maintain concentration, to maintain strength every three days.”