Chelsea recorded their 150th London derbdy game without defeat after putting two past West Ham without reply, but it ought to have been a whole lot more.
Frank Lampard and Eden Hazard’s goals meant Demba Ba’s misses were rendered irrelevant, but what could have been a thrashing stayed at just an assured win as Chelsea lacked the clinical edge.
But with results going Chelsea’s way earlier in the day, it does mean the Blues now leapfrog their rivals Tottenham into third place, with only four points separating Chelsea and Manchester City.
Despite Torres’ winning goal on Thursday, Benitez at least showed consistency with his squad rotation policy as Demba Ba started as Chelsea’s striker. The Senegalese man really fluffed his lines when presented with the opportunity to assert his authority as a European champion-quality striker, as Ba jaw-droppingly side-footed wide when one-on-one. The ball by Lampard that played in Ba was delightful, but the shot did not do it justice.
John Terry, despite his goal midweek too, was not afforded a starting spot either and Luiz had to be careful in the early stages, making a rash challenge on Andy Carroll.
Eden Hazard has performed his duties on Chelsea’s left wing this season, but today tasked with the role of Chelsea’s right wing man, the Belgian simply excelled. Neat interchanges with the Number 10 Juan Mata, who never puts in an imperfect performance, were the making of the first goal of the game, and Lampard’s 200th in Chelsea colours.
Hazard’s cushioned cross got the England veteran there after seeing his own shot sting the hands of Jaaskelainen. Lampard, who has a lot of success against this stopper, rose highest and Chelsea were ahead.
The stadium erupted in sheer joy, but they had to return from Cloud Nine moments later when Andy Carroll put the ball in the net at the other end, only for the linesman to spot a foul in the build-up.
Normal service resumed shortly after with Luiz showcasing his vast array of free-kick techniques, but Jaaskelainen was not to be put off. Ramires had to be wary of Diame as the first half approached its climax, whilst Demba Ba had opportunities he would later regret.
Eden Hazard, however, was having a divine game. Enjoying the responsibility in the right-wing position, with Moses shoved to the left, the Belgian was on the receiving end of Mata’s chipped pass. One control with his chest and three touches with his boot ended with the ball nestling the the back of the net. It was the sort of assertive arrogance in his celebration which makes the former Lille man well-received by Chelsea fans.
West Ham continued to stay in the game thanks to heroics by Jaaskelainen as Mata looked to grab the third. Hope was drained from the West Ham team, who resorted to long balls to Andy Carroll.
Terry did enjoy a 13 minute cameo as he replaced the injured David Luiz, but it posed no problems for the defender, who refused Lampard’s offer of the captain’s armband on arrival. It was a nice gesture from the friends, but Lampard had deserved it for his performance, which could have been capped off with a second goal from Oscar’s cross, only to see the ball sail over.
The international break may mean no Chelsea fixtures for a couple of weeks, but with the stars jetting all over the world, it may be tough to ask this lot to play six games in 16 days straight after, as the seasons draw to a close.