Inspirational performance from Drogba silences his critics

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The Independent Football

"It is the best way for players to speak on the pitch," he said of Drogba before taking a swipe at the critics of his club and £24m signing in particular. "I told him to close his mouth and the same people who spoke can speak now. Drogba should go home, switch on the television and listen to the pundits, buy every single newspaper and see what people write. To see if the persons who wanted to kill him have the common sense to say what he deserves."

Well, Drogba certainly was magnificent. He scared the West Ham United defence, scoring one goal and creating others, running the channels tirelessly, pursuing causes both promising and lost and richly deserving the man of the match award - which he was given - and the subsequent standing ovation.

The contrast to Chelsea's last home match - in which Drogba scored twice against Manchester City, was also named best player by the match sponsors but was met with boos from some home fans and a storm of controversy over a handball and after-match comments - could not have been greater. And all that while Chelsea work to sign Andrei Shevchenko, Samuel Eto'o or another world-class striker as his replacement.

"I always supported him," said Mourinho, even if Chelsea's fans, and some of his team-mates, have not. The captain John Terry claimed: "The fans love him. We love him." But that has been in dispute. Mourinho was unequivocal. "The performance was an unbelievable team performance but the way he was, the effort he showed, was unbelievable," Mourinho said. Drogba did indeed show all the attributes which attracted Mourinho to signing him. "No fear," the manager said. Instead, Drogba created it.

His view of Maniche's early dismissal was equally forthright. "The red card is not a problem in tactical terms because we are getting so much experience of playing with 10 men," Mourinho said. It was the fifth this year for his team and though Mourinho conceded he had not seen a television replay he believed that Chris Foy had erred as did his coaching staff who confronted the referee at half-time. The assistant manager Baltemar Brito stood in the tunnel, pointing angrily, others waited on the pitch. "To me a direct red card must be 101 per cent red card and from the position I was it didn't look that that to me," Mourinho said.

The victory, the manager said, confirmed that Chelsea's fate was in their own hands. "We don't care what Manchester United do. They can win, they can win. We have conditions that don't depend on their results and just get the results to be champions."

The disappointment of the West Ham manager Alan Pardew was evident. His side has lost a bit of its "exuberance", he said, they conceded "poor goals" and played "within themselves". All true.

He feared Chelsea would be "up for this game", and they were. "The 10 players Chelsea have put in world-class performances and we had a problem with that," he said. None more so than Drogba. "Terrific," Pardew said. And terrifying.

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