Battling West Ham hold Chelsea
West Ham 1 – 1 Chelsea
Italian coaches are the must have accessory this festive period. The appointment of Roberto Mancini as Manchester City’s new manager marks the fifth Italian to have taken up a post in high profile jobs in the British Isles during the last year.
His compatriots Fabio Capello, Giovanni Trapattoni, Gianfranco Zola and Carlo Ancelotti have all preceded the former Inter Milan manager. The Italian style of management is in vogue.
Sunday’s evening kick-off at Upton Park provided Zola and Ancelotti the opportunity to showcase their talents, and tt was a game that didn’t disappoint.
Chelsea were far from their dynamic best. The efficient and effective performance at the Emirates several weeks ago is slowly slipping from memory. The Hammers meanwhile, looked sharp and lively.
Mark Noble and Scott Parker embodied the spirit of the side as they ran around the pitch gnarling and sliding into crunching challenges. It is these types of characters that will prove indispensable in the fight against relegation.
Zola has added verve to the Upton Park side but at times they seem brittle, capable of self imploding. Tonight they remained compact and were only denied an invaluable win by a suspect decision from the linesman.
The first half was a gritty affair. Neither side managed to wrestle a firm grip on proceedings.
Chelsea’s best chance of the half fell to Branislav Ivanovic after 22 minutes. The Serbian’s firm header was blocked on the line by the tenacious Parker.
West Ham pressed and harried the away side. Shortly before half time they reaped the rewards for their exertions. Jack Collison made a darting foray into Cech’s box. The covering Ashley Cole wrapped his legs around the young Welshman. Mike Dean duly pointed to the penalty spot.
The likeable Diamanti, who is already earning cult status at Upton Park, swept the ball to the left of Cech with assured confidence.
Drogba struggled throughout the 90 minutes and wasn’t helped by his team-mates with the Ivory Coast international resorting to create an equaliser on his own. His Van Basten-esque attempt was outrageously audacious. However the ball looped harmlessly wide.
A single point ensured that West Ham avoided spending Christmas day with the undesirable title of the top flights basement club and all the ill-fortuned stigmas that accompany 20th spot. It should have been three points.
Matthew Upson’s well timed tackle dislodged the ball from the feet of Daniel Sturridge. The tackle on the Chelsea substitute seemed a lawful one. Dean’s assistant disagreed and a penalty was awarded.
Former Hammer, Frank Lampard assumed his normal duty as spot-kick taker. He showed incredible steel having missed against Manchester City last week.
A series of encroachments resulted in the English international having two converted kicks scratched off. He was forced to hit the net for a third time with Robert Green unable to make amends for his midweek error.
In a game where referring decisions will be hotly contested by both parties it was inevitable there would be one last moment of controversy. Reckless defending by Carvalho sent Franco tumbling to the floor, but the Portuguese defender escaped without penalisation.
Diamanti had a swerving effort beaten clear by Cech before the end. The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea extending their lead over the chasing pack to four points while West Ham moved into 19th place.
West Ham: Green, Faubert, Gabbidon, Upson, Ilunga, Noble, Kovac, Parker, Collison, Franco, Diamanti.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Lampard, Malouda, Joe Cole, Drogba, Kalou.
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the Match: Scott Parker. The midfielder battled throughout the entirety of the match and drove Zola’s troops forward while defending with heart.