Frank Lampard expresses himself well on the radio, but nothing like as eloquently as he does on the football pitch. Lampard's emotional outburst on a little-known radio chat-show concerning his split with his partner had left eyebrows raised at his state of mind ahead of Chelsea's journey to Barcelona for the Champions' League semi-final first leg.
But any thoughts that he might not be fully focused on Chelsea's priorities were dispelled in eye-catching fashion at the ground he used to call home. Lampard was given the predictable vitriolic abuse by the Upton Park crowd, who cannot forgive him for crossing London in 2001. His response was a mature display of precision and control. The only times he gave his emotions away were after he set up the game's only goal for Salomon Kalou and at the final whistle. Lampard was the last player to leave the pitch after enjoying the victory with the travelling Chelsea fans, and first to greet him in the tunnel was West Ham's manager, Gianfranco Zola, his former Chelsea team-mate.
Lampard was outstanding as he ran the show in the first half, without a Chelsea goal to show for his efforts. Ten minutes into the second half he put that right. Florent Malouda pierced the West Ham rearguard to release Lampard down the left flank. The midfielder took a moment before crossing to Kalou, who scored from close range.
Chelsea's captain, John Terry, who had also been subjected to unpleasant chants from the home fans about his mother's recent arrest for shop-lifting, ran over to join Lampard to celebrate before the massed Hammers fans in the Bobby Moore Stand, incurring a warning from referee Mike Dean.
Chelsea's manager, Guus Hiddink, said: "I rested players but I never thought of resting Frank. He would have accepted it but would have looked at me to say, 'Boss, don't do that'. He got some abuse but he is used to it."
Shortly after the goal, Chelsea conceded a penalty when Kalou tugged Herita Ilunga's shirt. West Ham could hardly credit their good fortune, but Petr Cech produced a save of world class to keep out Mark Noble's spot- kick. There was little wrong with the shot, which was hit hard and heading for the bottom corner, but Cech was up to the task. Hiddink immediately replaced Kalou with Michael Essien and gave the young Ivorian a lecture on the sidelines. Jose Bosingwa appeared to pass his personal test, in the side at left-back in place of Ashley Cole, who is suspended for the Barcelona game. He coped well, apart from a couple of hairy moments, and was replaced by Cole after 59 minutes. However, dealing with Luis Boa Morte is one thing, attempting to shackle Lionel Messi something else.
West Ham, urged on by the energetic Noble, had their chances despite chasing the ball for most of the game. Kieron Dyer, making his first start since a double fracture of his leg in August 2007, had a chance to mark his comeback with a goal after 20 minutes. Diego Tristan turned Terry and supplied the perfect diagonal pass to Dyer. But Cech, back at his best after a wobbly spell, was just too imposing and Dyer's shot was saved. Tristan almost scored just before half-time; Matthew Upson jumped high to win the ball from Noble's corner and Tristan flicked out a boot, but John Obi Mikel was on the Chelsea line to clear.
Chelsea's dominance was total after the break, and following Kalou's goal they had two chances to put the result beyond doubt. Juliano Belletti put Nicolas Anelka through on goal, but his shot was saved by West Ham's goalkeeper, Robert Green. Moments later Cole clipped the top of the bar, after a crisp exchange with Malouda.
Hiddink said: "We dominated but we made some errors in concentration. It is always hard to prepare for a game like this when you have such a big game as Barcelona coming up."
After the final whistle, Zola signed a four-year contract extension worth £1.6 million a year. "I have four more years after this one, so you are going to get fed up with me," he said. Zola also apologised for the abuse directed by fans at Lampard. "Frank has always been a good professional and a good boy. It's sad to see he has a problem with this crowd. It makes me sorry."
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Lampard
Match rating: 6/10
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