A goalless draw against West Ham United brought an end to our seven-game winning streak, with the Blues unable to break down the visitors despite dominating possession for long spells.
West Ham goalkeeper Adrian was the difference between the two sides in the first half, making a stunning save to deny Oscar early on and then thwarting both John Terry and Samuel Eto’o just before the break.
The second half followed a similar pattern, with Chelsea looking the more likely of the two sides but without being able to make the decisive breakthrough. Frank Lampard, whose introduction made a difference midway through the second half, saw a strike blocked shortly after coming on, while Demba Ba and Eden Hazard both went close in added time.
Samuel Eto’o had a goal ruled out after he rolled the ball into an empty net as Adrian prepared to take a goal-kick, but the best chance of the half, and probably the game, fell to Lampard right at the death, the midfielder running on to a Hazard pass but driving his strike straight at Adrian.
The visitors managed to see the game out and hold on for a point, meaning we will now look to get back to winning ways when we make the trip to Manchester City on Monday.
Jose Mourinho made five changes to the side which beat Stoke City in the FA Cup on Sunday, with the defensive area of the pitch most heavily affected. Petr Cech came back into the side for Mark Schwarzer, and John Terry preserved the run which has seen him start every Premier League game this season. At left-back, Cesar Azpilicueta returned to the starting line-up with Ashley Cole dropping down to the bench.
In midfield, there were two changes, with Ramires and John Mikel Obi replacing Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic, while Samuel Eto’o was once again selected to lead the line.
For the Hammers, Joe Cole missed the game through injury, while another former Blue, Carlton Cole, was named among the substitutes, along with news signings Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino. Andy Carroll, meanwhile, made his first start of the season in attack.
The two sides went into the game equally in need of the three points, but for very different reasons, and it was the Blues looking to strike the early blow.
After a Willian corner, won by Azpilicueta, was cleared by Carroll at the near post, a marauding run by Ramires was brought to a halt on the edge of the penalty area.
Five minutes in, however, the visitors were appealing for a penalty. Stewart Downing delivered from wide on the left and, as Carroll brought the ball down ahead of Azpilicueta, the striker tumbled to the ground. Sam Allardyce and his coaching staff were on their feet in the belief there had been contact, but replays proved the big striker had simply lost his footing in the wet turf.
Almost instantly we launched an attack from which we went close to breaking the deadlock. Hazard’s threatening run was thwarted, but as Willian swept the loose ball into the feet of Oscar, positioned on the angle of the penalty area, the Brazilian looked up and curled a delightful effort towards the far corner, only to see it turned over the bar by Adrian.
While the Blues were enjoying plenty of possession, West Ham were posing a threat, particularly in the air, and Cech produced a smart stop to deny Carroll as he headed a Downing free-kick towards the bottom corner.
The contest was developing into an entertaining spectacle, and Eto’o was presented with his first sight of goal after Hazard intelligently nodded a wonderful Branislav Ivanovic pass into his path. The ball sat up nicely for the Cameroonian but his strike was wayward and flew harmlessly into the Shed End.
With the visitors getting plenty of men behind the ball as soon as we picked up possession, the likes of Hazard, Oscar and Willian were struggling to penetrate their back four and carve out opportunities for Eto’o.
As the half-hour mark approached West Ham were forced into a substitution after Mohamed Diame tumbled over the advertising hoardings and into the lower tier of the Matthew Harding Stand. The collision was an unfortunate accident as he challenged for the ball, but it brought the midfielder’s evening to a premature conclusion and he was replaced by Matt Jarvis.
Chelsea passes were beginning to go astray as the half progressed, and as we struggled to find any kind of rhythm in the final third we were limited to shots from distance.
Hazard, as has often been the case of late, looked the most likely to make the breakthrough, but on the rare occasions when the Belgian worked himself into a dangerous position he was crowded out by a West Ham defence determined not to give him a yard of space.
A minute before the break we threatened again when Terry climbed highest to meet Willian’s corner, but on this occasion Adrian made the save with his feet to deny the Chelsea skipper in a crowded box.
Moments later, with virtually the last action of the first half, Adrian was responsible for keeping scores level once more when he turned a fierce Eto’o strike around the post.
It was a positive start to the second half by the Blues, and after Hazard had fired over the bar from an acute angle, a teasing Oscar delivery from wide on the right narrowly evaded Eto’o and Willian.
No doubt buoyed by the success of their approach during the opening 45 minutes, the Hammers set their stall out in a similar vein, and it became apparent that it was going to take something special – or a mistake – in order to profit.
As the game approached the hour mark, tempers began to fray, and Joey O’Brien was fortunate to escape with only a yellow card after clattering Willian from behind. It really was an awful challenge and one that had Mourinho and his coaching staff understandably fuming.
Soon after West Ham saw their best opportunity of the game go begging when Carroll scuffed a volley after Cech had pushed Downing’s cross into his path.
Sensing the need for a change, Mourinho made his first change of the evening, bringing on Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic at the expense of Mikel and Azpilicueta, while a straight swap for the Hammers saw Cole replace Carroll.
The change in personnel saw a switch in tactics, with Ramires operating as a right-back when we were defending but playing higher up as soon as we won the ball back, and Ivanovic taking up the left-back position. The two substitutes were tasked with protecting the back four but also supporting the attacking players when possible.
Lampard was presented with a wonderful chance shortly after entering the action, picking up an Oscar pass inside the West Ham penalty area. His first touch took him away from the challenge of Collins but as he fired left-footed towards goal he was denied by a last-ditch block from Tomkins.
It was the Blues in the ascendancy as the game entered its final 15 minutes, and the home supporters felt Eto’o had a legitimate penalty claim when he went down under the challenge of Guy Demel as he looked to get on the end of a Ramires cross.
Mourinho, meanwhile, made his third and final substitution, replacing Oscar with Demba Ba as we went in search of a winner.
With the visitors packed in and around the edge of their own penalty area, openings were proving hard to come by, and Ivanovic decided to go for goal from long range as the clock ticked down, but after catching it with the outside of his boot it sailed high and wide.
Having created very few clear goalscoring opportunities for much of the second half, we produced three in the dying minutes of the game. Ba turned a Hazard cross on to the foot of the post from close range, and moments later the Belgian flashed a strike wide, much to the frustration of the unmarked Terry.
That looked to be our best hope of a winner gone, but in the fourth minute of added time Hazard ran at the retreating West Ham defenders and laid it into the path of the advancing Lampard. The former Hammer looked destined to score, but could only fire at the feet of Adrian, meaning we were forced to settle for just a point in a game we would have hoped to have taken all three.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta (Matic 62); Ramires, Mikel (Lampard 62); Willian, Oscar (Ba 78), Hazard; Eto’o.
Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, David Luiz, Schurrle.
Booked Ramires 83
West Ham United (4-4-1-1): Adrian; Demel, Tomkins, Collins, O’Brien; Noble, Taylor, Nolan (c) (Nocerino 79), Downing; Diame (Jarvis 29); Carroll (C Cole 63).
Unused substitutes: Jaaskelainen, McCartney, Nocerino, Morrison, C Cole, Borriello.
Booked O’Brien 57, Taylor 60
Referee Neil Swarbrick