Talking points aplenty as much maligned West Ham United earn a valuable point at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Not many folk in the footballing world gave the Hammers much of a chance in this midweek fixture, but a resolute, never say die attitude from the players, ensured the Irons left West London the happier of the two camps. Big Sam welcomed back Andy Carroll to the starting line up, with Italian duo Nocerino and Borriello joining the club on loan, the former making the subs bench.
Chelsea's outstanding home form was a daunting prospect for the Hammers whose season's woes have been well- documented. That being said, our away form has generally been better, notching wins at Tottenham and Cardiff and we have the league's equal best clean sheet record along with Arsenal.
The game started slowly with West Ham United soaking up a great deal of Blues pressure. Oscar came the closest when his dipping effort hit the crossbar in the first half. Wave after wave of attack came, but the Irons sat deep and challenged the might of Chelsea to pass through them. The tactic worked in the first half and despite a very one-sided affair, the team went in nil-nil at the break. Yet another injury to disrupt proceedings for the Hammers occurred in the first half, as Mohamed Diame went barrelling over the advertising hoardings and into the crowd. A heavy fall for him brought on Matt Jarvis for the remainder of the game.
Chelsea also brought on Frank Lampard whose record against the Irons speaks for itself. The noisy travelling army were overjoyed to see his first effort of the game sail over the bar. Chelsea continued to knock on the door and the last ditch defending from West Ham was nothing short of immense. At one stage, three defenders dived in to make a block against the former West Ham man, typifying the resolute attitude we had come the expect under Big Sam, that quite frankly has been missing in recent weeks.
West Ham had a spectacular chance when Downing broke down the left and laid the ball on a plate for Andy Carroll. Rustiness abound sadly as he missed the ball playing an air shot into the top corner, to the sheer delight of the home fans.
This was very much against the run of play as Chelsea became more desperate for a goal and Eden Hazard showed why he wishes to be thought of in the same breath as Ronaldo and Messi. His trickery and guile was superb at times but every attempt was thwarted by a resurgent Adrian in the West Ham goal. His performance not dissimilar to that of Rob Green's when West Ham recorded the first victory at the Emirates many moons ago.
A clumsy tackle from Gary Cahill ended Joey O'Brien's season with a dislocated shoulder, so West Ham ended the match with ten men. West Ham still did not lie down, Samuel Eto'o having to resort to crude tactics, kicking the ball in the net as Adrian stepped back for his run up, from a Chelsea foul. Their player's gesticulating and pressuring the ref summed up what was a magnificent evening for the Hammers and a frustrating one for the Blues.
Mourinho protested after the game that West Ham played football from the 19th century and bemoaned Big Sam's tactics. Chelsea did in fact have 38 shots on target, the most from any team who have failed to score in the Premier League and there is the point, they failed to score and failed to beat us. I am not entirely sure in this modern era of football how teams like West Ham are supposed to go to these big boys and be competitive whilst knocking it around? I am not sure it is possible. Perhaps Big Sam is showing us the new modern way to get points at these super clubs. It may not have been prettying but it was vital, keeping us in touch with the rest of the pack at the bottom of the league. For once fat Frank did not have the last laugh and to see Mourinho so frustrated was music to East London's ears.
Apart from the two Italians, Sam has signed a further five players, most notably Pablo Armero the Napoli wing back who takes the place of Razvan Rat who has been released. Modify Maigs has gone on loan to QPR and I wish him all the best.
The sun is shining on this beautiful Saturday morning with West Ham entertaining the unpredictable Swansea City at the Boleyn Ground. I seem to be saying this weekly, but a must-win game for us; the gap between us and safety is now 2 points. Big Sam will be looking to build on the clean sheet record and Andy Carroll should start giving us greater threat up front.
Come on you Irons!
Joey O' Brien 8