CARLO ANCELOTTI admits Chelsea’s standards are buckling under the weight of a gruelling festive programme, despite seeing them stretch their lead at the top of the Premier League to four points at West Ham last night.
The Blues once again produced a leggy performance against struggling opponents and were unable to take maximum advantage of second-placed Manchester United’s slip-up at Fulham 24 hours previously.
“We didn’t play a good match,” Ancelotti admitted. “We met a strong, hard team. It was a tough game.
“It is not easy to play every three days. It is not easy to prepare. Now we have one week to prepare for the next game and we will improve.
“But we have four points more than anybody in the league and we can have a good Christmas.”
Ancelotti had the nerve of Frank Lampard and the decision of an assistant referee to thank for his side’s point in a match decided by two penalties.
The first was slotted home in the first half by Alessandro Diamanti after Ashley Cole had brought down Jack Collison.
The second-half equaliser came from the spot when Matthew Upson was adjudged to have fouled Daniel Sturridge, a decision which angered West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola.
Television replays revealed Upson had made a sound tackle but the assistant referee waved his flag and persuaded referee Mike Dean to change his original decision.
“The referee got it right in the first place then the linesman put his flag up and the referee changed his mind,” Zola said. “His first impression was the right one. Pity he did not stay with that. The players were disappointed. The linesman put the flag up and that’s why he gave it.
“It’s a pity because the referee was better positioned than the linesman. He was closer to the action.”
Lampard had to take the penalty three times due to encroachment, but beat Robert Green comfortably on each occasion.
“I didn’t need that at all, especially after missing one the other week,” said Lampard, who was once again subjected to constant abuse by fans of his former club. “That feeling when it hits the back of the net is nice but when you get told to retake it you wonder if something bad is going to happen. And when it happened again I didn’t know what to think so I was pleased to see the last one hit the back of the net.
“We didn’t turn up for the first half and that’s the poorest we’ve played all season. They wanted it more than us. But we came out in the second half with a different attitude. It was a fair result.”
Zola was delighted with the battling performance which ensured the Hammers are not bottom of the Premier League at Christmas.
“I am happy because the attitude, the passion and the courage of my players was remarkable. It was a good starting point and it will affect everyone from now on.
“They were tired but they didn’t look like it. They could have played another 90 minutes.
“In the past we played some good games but I never felt the atmosphere we had today. The players were encouraging each other, working off each other. It really was contagious.
“Everybody was involved in it. There was a positive feeling. It kept everyone very sharp.”
The one setback was defender Danny Gabbidon picking up a hamstring injury early on which could keep him out of the festive fixtures, but West Ham had earned the right to feel satisfied.
“It was do or die for us,” Scott Parker, the midfielder, said. “We’ve been lacking a little bit of fight, passion and a bit of the gritty stuff of late but today we did that.
“It’s a massive result for us although obviously we would have loved to get the three points
“But it’s a big lift and we were not expecting it. We’ve done really well and we can now push on.”
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