West Ham United 0 Chelsea 3
Frank Lampard epitomises the reasons why Chelsea are still very much in the title race and West Ham are perennial strugglers.
The England star is 35, an age at which most players are struggling to keep up with the demands of the modern game, let alone a box-to-box midfielder whose game relies on stamina and strong legs.
Plenty of critics have been keen to suggest he is past his best, and even his own club were stalling embarrassingly before offering him a new contract last season.
Even this season he went on a 10-game run without a goal in the Premier League, his longest barren streak for 10 years, as Jose Mourinho asked him to sit deeper and let the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata get on with attacking from midfield. But on Saturday at Upton Park, the place where he started his career and is always sure of a hostile reception from the home fans that once cheered his name, Lampard was given a licence to thrill and kill off his old team, which he did without fuss.
Lampard opened the scoring with a 21st-minute penalty after a horrible howler from West Ham defender Guy Demel left his keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen with no option but to bring down Oscar. Then after setting up the Brazilian to score a second before half-time, Lampard scored with one of his trademark long-range efforts in the closing stages to complete the Hammers’ humiliation.
And all this after Chelsea’s title challenge was questioned following defeat at Newcastle and the closest of shaves in getting a home draw with West Brom two weeks ago, doubts about which Lampard was well aware.
“We knew we had to win this game, there was a lot of focus on us going into it because our away form has not been good enough,” he said.
“But it was a complete performance. We dominated from the start of the game, showed great intent in our football and our workrate and won it comfortably.”
With John Obi Mikel shielding the back four, Lampard was able to get forward more, and he was quick to praise his team-mate.
“It was nice to have a few opportunities to get forward today, and good to get a penalty to get us ahead, and the one at the end to kill it off.
“Obi came in and held in the middle of the park and gave us great security. It meant Ramires and I had a bit of an opportunity at different times and I had a few chances today — probably more than I have done recently. I just play as the manager tells me. I have got a lot of respect for him so wherever he wants me to play, I will play, and enjoy it. We have got a lot of attacking talent in the team and the manager has got to try to get the best out of that.
“But when he does give me the licence to get forward that I had at times today, I will try to do my best because I do love getting forward.”
When he was asked about comparisons with Andrea Pirlo, another golden oldie, albeit a year younger at 34, Lampard laughed.
“No. Not like Pirlo. There will only ever be the one Pirlo. I understand what you are saying. In real life you probably adapt your game and you can’t bomb up and down as much as you always did. If you can use your experience — whether you are deeper or not — if you have a little bit of licence to get forward as I did today, you can get forward at the right times.”
Jose Mourinho admitted afterwards that he had sent out a side determined not to allow West Ham to cause an upset, as they did when winning 3-0 at Tottenham last month. The Portuguese manager had only four regular first-team players to work with during the international break, so spent his time studying Sam Allardyce’s side in close detail.
“I didn’t have players to work with for 15 days, so I had time to study a lot, because I had nothing else to do. I watched West Ham, I watched and I watched, and I tried to identify what they could do against us.
“I saw every game of West Ham, who have a certain style of play. We knew it was very important to cope with the first long ball and the second ball. We had a good game and everything went well for us.”
West Ham, started poorly and got worse, and were booed off by their own supporters at half-time and the final whistle. They are right in a relegation scrap, above the bottom three only on goal difference. More worryingly, they have now failed to score in seven of their 12 league games, and already lost four at home. Allardyce is desperately hoping for the return to fitness of Andy Carroll, who has not played since his £15m transfer from Liverpool in June. Allardyce said: “I know one thing that would change our dynamic a massive amount. That’s Andy Carroll. But I can’t have him.
“We went for four top strikers in the summer but unfortunately didn’t get any of them. Andy was due back three weeks into the season, but he is still out now.”
Allardyce understands his fans frustration. “I don’t criticise them for booing because they expect a better show than they saw. They wouldn’t have booed if we’d given a better show and lost. They pay their money and if they don’t see determination, passion and desire, then they show their disapproval. You’ve got to give them something to shout about. You can’t expect them to shout and cheer and be electric and help us without giving them something.”
WEST HAM: 4-5-1: Jaaskeleinen 7; Demel 5, Collins 5, Tomkins 5, O’Brien 6; J Cole 5, Collison 5, Morrison 5, Noble 7, Downing 5; Nolan 5. Subs: Maiga for J Cole 40, Diame for Collison 40, Jarvis for Nolan 75.
CHELSEA: 4-2-3-1: Cech 7; Ivanovic 7, Terry 6, Cahill 7, Azpilicueta 7; Mikel 7 Lampard 8; Ramires 7, Oscar 8, Hazard 7; Eto’o 7. Subs: Ba for Eto’o 73, Schurrle for Oscar 83, Essien for Hazard 84.
Referee: C Foy.
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