WEST HAM 1
Essien 2, 83, Kalou 18
It was a game which provided, as Paul Merson correctly identified; the miss of the season, the fluke of the season and an early contender for goal of the season.
Frederique Piquionne will wake up this morning still wondering how he managed to turn the ball onto the bar when he faced an open goal from a yard out, whilst Scott Parker will realise his cute finish will matter little to a West Ham team that has now conceded three goals in each of their four Premier League games this term.
Chelsea lined up in their trademark 4-1-2-3 formation with Michael Essien the focal point of a midfield trio made up of Jon Obi Mikel and £17m new-boy Ramires. West Ham were the architects of their own demise, arranging themselves in a 4-5-1 set-up played right into Carlo Ancelloti’s hands, allowing his full backs far too much time and space, whilst lone striker Carlton Cole cut an isolated figure up front.
Essien struck either side of a bizarre Salomon Kalou goal to maintain Chelsea’s immaculate record, easing past the Hammers without the injured Frank Lampard. Without the prolific midfielder – currently sidelined after undergoing a hernia operation – Essien was given license to roam forward behind the three pronged Chelsea spearhead and made an instant impact, rising unmarked in the box to head home a Didier Drogba corner.
The early breakthrough set the tone for the remaining 88 minutes of football but the Blues never really got out of second gear. Ramires, making his full debut for the Stamford Bridge unit was largely a spectator as an efficient, if unspectacular Chelsea left ex-coach Avram Grant rooted to the foot of the table.
Essien though, was different class. The Ghanaian bossed the game from start to finish and more then deserved his second, highlighting his potential as a long term successor to the ageing and perhaps deteriorating Lampard. Sleek interlinking across the Chelsea midfield resulted in a cross from Paulo Ferreira meeting the head of the unequalled Essien as he put the final gloss on a magnificent individual performance.
Sandwiched between the pair of bullet headers, Kalou kept up his fine goal scoring form as he started ahead of the similarly in-form Florent Malouda. In a frightful summer of howlers for Rob Green, this goalmouth clanger is bound to appear on a number of ‘Football Funnies’ DVDs in the coming years. After spilling a routine catch from a Drogba free-kick, Matthew Upson looked to have quelled the immediate danger, only to see his clearance strike Kalou’s heel and loop over the head of his dejected and desolate goalkeeper.
Parker’s late strike came as little consolation to West Ham who chalked up the first goal against Chelsea’s unrivalled defensive line. The marvellous finish was perhaps no more than the ex-Stamford Bridge player deserved and if strikes such as these are the only way to penetrate the Blue’s terrifying rearguard, Petr Cech could be in for a very quiet campaign.
19 Ferreira – 26 Terry – 2 Ivanovic – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 7 Ramires
21 Kalou – 11 Drogba – 39 Anelka
76 – 44 Kakuta on for 39 Anelka
82 – 33 Alex on for 26 – Terry
84 – 15 Malouda on for 21 Kalou