The Blues moved into third in the Premier League table with a comfortable 2-0 win against West Ham United at Stamford Bridge, our fourth home league victory in a row.
Frank Lampard gave us the lead with his 200th Chelsea goal in the 18th minute, expertly guiding a header from Eden Hazard’s cross beyond Jussi Jaaskelainen, and quite how it remained 1-0 until the break was anybody’s guess as Demba Ba, Juan Mata, Victor Moses and David Luiz all went close.
Four minutes after the restart, however, it was 2-0 thanks to a marvellous piece of individual skill fromHazard, as the Belgian linked up with Mata and drilled his strike past Jaaskelainen.
Mata, Hazard and Lampard all missed opportunities to put the seal on an impressive collective display late on, but we end a good week on a positive note, and now look forward to our away game at Southampton which follows the forthcoming international break.
Rafael Benitez made four changes to the side which beat Steaua Bucharest 3-1 on Thursday in the Europa League. Gary Cahill came into the back four to partner David Luiz at the expense of captain John Terry, while in midfield Lampard was given the nod – as well as the captain’s armband – to face his former club. Moses was preferred wide on the right ahead of Oscar, playing alongside Mata and Hazard, both making their 50th appearances of the season, in behind former Hammer Demba Ba.
For West Ham, meanwhile, former Stamford Bridge favourite Joe Cole missed out through injury, while another former Blue, Carlton Cole, who scored in the corresponding fixture at Upton Park, started on the bench.
Both teams went into the game off the back of wins in their previous matches, and it was West Ham who were offered the first sight of goal when David Luiz fouled Andy Carroll on the edge of the box inside the opening two minutes.
Ricardo Vaz Te was the man who stepped up, but his strike was high and harmless, much to the relief of the home support.
The Blues should have been ahead after six minutes when the two former Hammers in our ranks linked up; Lampard released Ba with an absolutely exquisite pass, but as the striker opened his body up, and with only Jaaskelainen to beat, he dragged his shot wide.
It was a frantic opening, with both sides on the front foot, and the visitors were next to go close when James Collins powered a volley inches over the bar.
The link-up play between Mata and Hazard was causing West Ham problems early on, particularly down the right-hand side, and on more than one occasion it required last-ditch clearances to prevent Ba from capitalising on the duo’s creativity.
Surprisingly, it was Moses who started wide on the left, with Hazard deployed on the other flank, but it certainly wasn’t limiting their early influence.
The Chelsea pressure was beginning to build and after 18 minutes we took a deserved lead.
Hazard stung the palms of Jaaskelainen with a powerful drive, and as the rebound fell at the feet of the Belgian, he looked up and delivered a delightful cross on to the head of Lampard, who steered his effort over the goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Not only was the goal pivotal in the context of the match, but it was the midfielder’s 200th for the club, and it will have surprised nobody inside Stamford Bridge that Lampard reached the milestone against his former employers.
The away side thought they had restored parity within a couple of minutes when Carroll brought a Matt Jarvis cross under control and prodded home, but the linesman’s flag was already raised for a foul, and soon after we almost extended our lead when David Luiz’s intelligent free-kick was tipped around the post by the busy Jaaskelainen.
The in-form Hazard, in particular, looked threatening every time he was in possession, and his ability to switch from right to left, as well as operate through the middle, was making him difficult to pick up.
Moses was unfortunate to see his low drive fizz wide after some excellent build-up play between Lampard, Mata and Cesar Azpilicueta as we looked to take a stranglehold of proceedings before the break, while a minute later it was Mata’s turn to curl one narrowly wide.
West Ham were struggling to stay in the game as the Blues dominated, but on their rare forays into our half the warning signs remained, and it took a fantastic block by Azpilicueta to deny Mohamed Diame.
As half-time approached, it was a mystery how we had only managed to score once, and chance after chance continued to go begging, with Ba going close twice in quick succession.
Unsurprisingly, given the manner of our first-half display, the Blues emerged for the second half with no changes to personnel, while Sam Allardyce opted to make one switch, replacing Diame with Matthew Taylor.
Four minutes into the second half our advantage was doubled, and it was a goal fit to grace the biggest of stages scored by a player in a rich vein of form.
Hazard, who moments earlier had embarked on a magnificent solo run to bring the Bridge to its feet, exchanged passes with Mata, before dropping his shoulder to evade two West Ham challenges and firing into the bottom corner.
It was the 21-year-old’s 12th goal of the season in all competitions, and no more than his performance had merited.
Minutes later the game was almost put out of the visitors’ reach when Mata raced clean through, only to be thwarted by the legs of the excellent Jaaskelainen, who West Ham had to thank for keeping them in the match.
As the visitors chased the game, they began to take a more direct approach, seeking out the aerial threat of Carroll virtually every time they attacked, and sensing the game was slipping away frustrations began to boil over, with both Winston Reid and Guy Demel earning themselves yellow cards.
Hazard was denied a second by a point-blank block as he pounced on a Mata cut-back as the Blues attempted to put the game to bed.
Having already replaced Moses with Oscar, Benitez made his second change of the afternoon 13 minutes from time, introducing Terry at the expense of David Luiz, who had produced a solid display alongside Cahill, while for the visitors Cole came on for Vaz Te.
Cole’s impact was almost instant as he got across Cahill to meet Jarvis’s cross from the left, but Petr Cech, a virtual spectator for much of the match, did well to save low down to his left, while at the other end Lampard passed up a glorious opportunity to double his tally, blasting over from Oscar’s cross.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz (Terry 77), Cole; Ramires, Lampard (c); Moses (Oscar 69), Mata (Mikel 85), Hazard; Ba.
Unused substitutes: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Bertrand, Torres.
Scorers Lampard 18, Hazard 49
West Ham United (4-1-4-1): Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid (c), Collins (Tomkins 60), O’Brien; O’Neil; Vaz Te (Cole 78), Diame (Taylor h/t), Collison, Jarvis; Carroll.
Unused substitutes: Spiegel, McCartney, Pogatetz, Chamakh.
Booked Reid 70, Demel 72
Referee Michael Oliver