Chelsea 1 West Ham Utd 0: Gérémi gets straight to the points

West Ham's chairman-in-waiting witnesses a gulf in class he must try to address urgently
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The Independent Football

"I think we deserved the three points," said the Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after this encounter. "But West Ham at least deserve to leave the stadium with some belief for their future." That future is suddenly becoming a lot clearer - at least off the field - even if the largely Icelandic consortium headed by the watching Eggert Magnusson, which will effectively take control tomorrow when its £98m bid is expected to be deemed "irrevocable", are acquiring a club a point closer to the relegation zone.

West Ham didn't slip any further in the table despite this loss, their eighth in succession away from home, but the draw eked out by Newcastle United on their travels makes their predicament a bit squeakier. Not that they could have expected much from the Premiership champions who utterly dominated them last season, a time when the visitors were in a far healthier position than they are now.

Their manager Alan Pardew, who received a warm embrace from Mourinho, and there is admiration between the two men, said he believed that his team are starting to reach those heights again. Indeed he claimed they were close to "maximum" while lauding the contribution of the Argentine Carlos Tevez.

"Against the champions we have given a performance that suggests our season might not be as long as people think," Pardew claimed. It was certainly encouraging and he was also right in pointing out that few teams come to this ground and deliver so many crosses into the home penalty area.

But, in truth, Chelsea were far more comfortable victors than the scoreline suggests and despite a better display by Tevez he was not quite the hard-working, world-class performer his manager claimed he was. Chelsea's Michael Essien certainly was, however. He dominated the midfield, a blur of perpetual motion and iron control. Essien also struck the post - and struck fear into his opponents.

Last season it was Didier Drogba who destroyed West Ham, yesterday it was Essien while it was a third African player, Gérémi, who scored the only goal. As his right-footed free-kick arced wonderfully into the net midway through the first half, it served as a sharp reminder that the Cameroonian is a much neglected free-kick specialist.

That kick came after Danny Gabbidon was deemed to have bundled Drogba over. Pardew found it harsh, while Mourinho's only surprise was that Drogba and Frank Lampard allowed Gérémi to take the opportunity.

The goal allowed Chelsea happily to cede possession - and sucker West Ham on the counterattack. Pardew was aware and called for caution while also urging his players to up the tempo and become a little more feisty. His captain Nigel Reo-Coker heeded the commands and involved himself in a dispute with Drogba - but also came close when reaching a deep cross, only for Ashley Cole to fling his body in the way of his volley.

On half-time the tricky Matthew Etherington teed himself up and thudded a shot narrowly wide although it was Chelsea's Arjen Robben who came closest when a half-cleared throw-in fell to him and he screwed a snap-shot wastefully beyond a post. Mourinho lost Ricardo Carvalho to a twisted ankle, but said he wasn't concerned about the injury despite the meetings with Werder Bremen and Manchester United to come, and then he saw Lampard scoop over after being set up by Andriy Shevchenko.

As the game wore on, so Essien's influence grew. He struck one fierce shot that hit Gabbidon on the knee, after he reached Robert Green's weak punch and then saw another beat the goalkeeper but not the post. Anton Ferdinand, twice, blocked other goal-bound efforts.

It meant going into the final moments that West Ham were, indeed, still in the encounter. Pardew re-shaped his attack and suddenly Chelsea faced three strikers. It made the visitors more vulnerable on the counter but the champions lacked their usual sharpness. At the end they were, to an extent, holding on. But, despite West Ham's endeavour, it was not too uncomfortable for Mourinho.

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