Who says that playing a game of football every three days makes you tired?
Chelsea’s players looked far from jaded on Sunday as they sauntered to victory over West Ham, despite the match being No. 53 for the Blues in an extremely busy campaign. If anything, the extra time spent on the pitch compared to other clubs seems to be working to Chelsea’s benefit, as the team currently appears as sharp and as lively as at any time during the season.
While the side as a whole played with great verve and skill against the Hammers, Frank Lampard rightly grabbed the headlines by scoring his 200th goal for the Blues. He now needs just three more to overtake Bobby Tambling as Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Eden Hazard, another player who put in a superb display on Sunday, added a brilliant second to give the scoreline a more realistic look given the Blues’ overwhelming superiority.
In truth, a fair result would have been 4-0 or 5-0—such was Chelsea’s dominance. However, the Blues missed numerous chances to record a more emphatic victory, with Demba Ba being especially culpable. Never mind; there was much to admire in Chelsea’s overall play, with the likes of Hazard, Juan Mata and Ramires all putting in eye-catching performances.
For more thoughts on an historic day at the Bridge, read on.
In the very early stages of Sunday’s match, it was quite clear that Frank Lampard fancied his chances of getting on the scoresheet against his old club.
After just four minutes he made a run into the West Ham six-yard box, hoping to get on the end of a cross which, as it turned out, didn't arrive. OK, you might say, that’s what he’s done throughout his career. Yes, but don’t forget that Lampard is now a holding midfielder in Chelsea’s 4-2-3-1 system, and it’s not normal for players in that position to act almost like second centre-forwards.
Thank goodness, though, that Lamps is not hamstrung by the demands of his theoretical tactical role. On 19 minutes he showed precisely why he needs to be given freedom to join in Chelsea attacks, when he powerfully headed in Eden Hazard’s exquisite chip to open the scoring.
As every fan inside Stamford Bridge must have known, the goal was Lampard’s 200th for the club, a milestone which only 1960s striker Bobby Tambling has reached before.
Lamps will now have his eyes firmly set on Tambling’s longstanding record of 202 Chelsea goals, and there’s every chance he will smash through that barrier before the season is out.
It was a bit of shame that Lampard’s magnificent achievement in reaching a double century of goals for Chelsea was slightly overshadowed by the way West Ham fans reacted to his celebratory run toward their corner of the ground.
Let’s make one thing clear: Lamps did not rush over to the visiting supporters with the intention of “winding them up” or “mocking” them, as some have claimed. He ran over to celebrate with substitute John Terry, who was warming up in that area, and with the Chelsea fans in the lower East Stand.
As you have probably seen, Lampard, Terry and the other celebrating Chelsea players were then pelted with coins, plastic bottles and hot dogs by numerous West Ham fans in the lower Shed End. Some of the missiles found their targets, although fortunately nobody was injured.
Two thoughts. First, West Ham deserve to have the book thrown at them for this sort of yobbish behavior. Second, can we assume the stagnant British ecomony is finally picking up? After all, if football fans are prepared to chuck away their cash and expensive afternoon snacks—a Stamford Bridge hot dog costs £3.50, with or without mustard—then things might not be as gloomy as the likes of Robert Peston are always telling us.
If Romelu Lukaku was listening in to the Chelsea-West Ham match, he would have had a broad smile on his face.
First, there was the news that Fernando Torres, despite his goal and improved performance against Steaua Bucharest in midweek, had been consigned to the Blues bench. The Spaniard’s confidence is notoriously fickle, and it’s fair to assume that any high he was on after breaking his goal drought against the Romanians will have dissipated by the time he’s next in action for Chelsea.
Then, there was the performance of Torres’ replacement, Demba Ba. The Senegalese striker had possibly his worst game for the Blues to date, missing three or four excellent chances. The first opportunity he scorned was particularly bad. Racing onto a marvellous defence-splitting pass from Frank Lampard, Ba looked odds-on to open the scoring but, inexplicably, sidefooted his shot six yards wide from well inside the penalty area.
That miss, and his overall disappointing display, will have got Chelsea fans thinking that Ba is not the answer to the Blues’ striking dilemma. Neither, clearly, is Torres.
So, where does that leave Lukaku, currently impressing while on loan at West Brom? Well, the Belgian centre-forward has improved dramatically since he was last spotted at the Bridge last season and might just find himself back in west London rather sooner than he might have expected.
Before the game, the Chelsea Swiss Supporters club presented Blues goalkeeper Petr Cech with their Player of the Season award.
As is customary on these occasions, the two Swiss fans had come with a gift to give to Cech in honour of his achievement. What do you think might be an appropriate present? A Swiss cuckoo clock, perhaps? A snazzy Swiss watch? Or, maybe even a bar of ancient Nazi gold, dug out from one of those deep Zurich bank vaults?
Er, no. To guffaws from watching Chelsea fans, the pair handed Cech a bar of Toblerone. Admittedly, it was a big bulky bar, not one of those little ones that you can buy for 55p in Costcutter and, to be fair, the Blues star looked happy enough with his prize.
But, all the same, Chelsea’s Swiss fans voted for Petr Cech as their best player and they thought it would be fine to give him a bar of chocolate as an award.
Odd, to say the least.