Sport Soccer

Friday 23 February 2018

Lampard picks dreadful Hammers apart

David Hytner

For Jose Mourinho and Chelsea, there was beauty in this East End stroll.

Needing a victory after the loss at Newcastle United and the fortunate home draw against West Bromwich Albion, they found opponents only too happy to oblige.

West Ham United were a shambles in the first half. Sam Allardyce persisted with his 4-6-0 formation and he watched his team offer nothing and, seemingly, look to do nothing more than cling on. So bad were his tactics and his team that he made two substitutions in the 40th minute, with one of the new faces being the striker Modibo Maiga.

The damage was done by then. Chelsea took full advantage of West Ham's lack of ambition and, also, defensive slackness; the opening goal, lashed home from the penalty spot by Frank Lampard against his old club, followed an almost ludicrous lapse. Oscar got the goal that his man-of-the-match performance deserved shortly after the half-hour and that was pretty much that.

Mourinho's team were helped along their way but they were excellent in all areas. They have struggled at times when opposing teams have flooded the midfield but not here. Lampard emphasised their superiority with his second goal towards the end, drilled home after yet another flowing move and West Ham, despite showing more spirit in the second-half, could not escape the boos of their crowd at full-time.

Allardyce's formation demanded defensive focus – giving the opposition a goal start is not part of the plan – and so he was left to curse when West Ham ushered Chelsea in front in darkly comic fashion. A chip from Gary Cahill into the home penalty area appeared to present little threat but Guy Demel contrived to create a big one, when his attempt to get the ball back to Jussi Jaaskelainen with his thigh went askew.

Oscar, ever alive to any possibility, nipped in and was sent spinning by the West Ham goalkeeper. It was a clear penalty and the only decision appeared to concern the colour of Jaaskelainen's card. He got away with nothing, to Mourinho's obvious surprise. Lampard thrashed the penalty high into the net.

The second goal had been advertised, as Lampard had twice gone close, but its manner still represented a kick in the guts for the home support.

From Lampard's ball forward, Eden Hazard's smart flick invited Oscar to maraud towards West Ham's penalty area. He kept going and going and, in the absence of any challenge, threaded a low shot past Jaaskelainen from 20 yards.

Allardyce had seen enough and he made his double substitution after 40 minutes, removing Joe Cole and Jack Collison and introducing Mohamed Diame and Maiga. Such a change at such a juncture was tantamount to an admission from the manager that he had got things horribly wrong at the outset. Joe Cole was furious, sprinting off to show that he was not injured and disappearing down the tunnel.

Chelsea could revel in glorious individual flickers after the break, particularly from Oscar and Hazard, who seemed to tease West Ham at will. Samuel Eto'o also showcased his touch and skills in tight areas. West Ham struggled to catch their opponent's shadows. The travelling fans enjoyed themselves. "Frankie Lampard," they sung. "He's won more than you."

It became a question of how many Chelsea would score and whether West Ham could restore any pride. From a Lampard corner on 56 minutes Cahill's towering header was cleared off the line by Mark Noble and, after a flowing Chelsea counter and Cesar Azpilicueta's cross, Oscar shot wastefully wide.

West Ham finally made a chance on 65 minutes that might have given them an unlikely foothold. Demel showed tenacity and tricks to escape three Chelsea players on the byline and his deflected cross implored Maiga to finish. He jabbed past the post.

The home crowd cheered when Allardyce substituted the captain, Kevin Nolan, and it was left to Lampard to finish off his former team. After Hazard's shot had been blocked, he blasted low past Jaaskelainen from 12 yards.


Sunday Independent

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