A stunning second half fightback earned the Irons their first win over Chelsea for almost ten years yesterday at the Boleyn Ground, as goals from Carlton Cole, Momo Diame and Mobido Maiga overturned a first half deficit. It was the first time this season that Sam Allardyce’s boys had come back to win a game from a losing position, and the manager couldn’t control his delight at the final whistle, nor in the post match interview for BBC’s Match of The Day, where he allowed a cake-based analogy to get out of control, setting up a predictably cheesy cake-based gag for smarmy host Gary Lineker.
Before all the cake analogies, jubilation, mass coaching staff group hugs and delighted chants of “stick your blue flag up your arse”, however, there was frustration, disappointment and bewilderment. Momo Diame, arguably the side’s best player so far this season, was bizarrely dropped by Big Sam- a decision that the manager later justified by explaining that the Senegal cruncher was “tired.” Andy Carroll was also absent with a knee injury picked up in Wednesday night’s 1-0 defeat to Manchester United, so Carlton Cole deputised up front. James Tomkins filled in for Diame in defensive midfield, with Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble sitting in front of the Basildon lad in central midfield, and Matt Jarvis and Gary O’Neil haring up the flanks. The somewhat awkward midfield trio took time to gel together in the opening stages, and the Hammers were a shadow of the organised defensive machine that they have proved themselves to be so far this season. Outrun, outplayed, outfought- it was only a matter of time before the opening goal for the visitors came- and after thirteen minutes it did. Tomkins’ failure to track Fernando Torres left the misfiring Spain hitman in plenty of space on the right, and it was no trouble at all for him to wriggle to the byline and pull the ball back for his countryman Juan Mata to tap in from eight yards.
Chelsea were bossing the game, and although the goal seemed to provide a wake up call to West Ham, an equaliser before the break looked unlikely. However, as the Irons enjoyed a sustained period of possession in the Blues’ half, an equaliser almost arrived. A ball came in from Mark Noble, effervescent as always, James Collins- having a n increasingly solid game- got in front of Branislav Ivanovic and headed the ball down for Nolan to half volley beyond Cech and into the far corner. However, Martin Atkinson judged that the Wales international had impeded the Chelsea man and, somewhat harshly, awarded a free kick against him. Big Sam’s men then started to gain the ascendency and, after Cech had been penalised for punching outside his area and James Collins’ blasted free kick was deflected up in the air, the Chelsea keeper had to tip Nolan’s goalbound header over the bar. Half time probably came at just the right time for the Hammers, who ended the first half well but clearly still had lessons to learn from that opening first twenty minutes.
Evidently, Big Sam had learnt a couple of tactical lessons too; for when the boys headed out for the second half, Diame was on for O’Neil and Matty Taylor replaced Tomkins. The opening quarter of the second half was like the opening quarter of the first half- but in reverse for the teams. Whereas Chelsea had swaggered over the Upton park turf with an infuriating swagger in the first fifteen minutes, now it was West Ham who were taking the game to their West London rivals. The boys in claret and blue piled on the pressure as Cech remained a virtual spectator at the other end of the field, as the Irons forced corner after corner. All came to nothing though, as the 35,005 wondered whether it might just be one of those West Ham days. But in the 63rd minute, bang. Matt Jarvis’ cross took a deflection off England centre half Gary Cahill and with trademark agility, Carlton Cole stooped to head in firmly his first goal of the season. However, just with Mata’s first half opener, the goal stung the opposition and Chelsea almost struck back on two occasions; first, Torres should have prodded the ball past Jaaskelainen in a goal mouth scramble and then, Mata was inches away from doubling his tally with a brilliantly stuck free kick from twenty five yards.
It was now make or break time for Big Sam’s boys- did the manager stick and hope to hold on for the draw or twist and shout, come on baby, work it on out and go for the win? There seemed to be no evident change in the gaffer’s tactics as a proper Premier League end to end game developed. Winston Reid almost put the Irons ahead only to see his header somehow cleared off the line by Ashley Cole. Momo Diame was running everything in the centre of the park and seemed to be popping up everywhere, like Paul “dogshit” (‘because he gets everywhere’) Ince in his heyday. With four minutes to go, a good touch from Cole put the ball right in his path, twenty yards out, and the ex Wigan man blasted past Cech. The Boleyn Ground erupted- but there was more to come. Maiga, on as sub for the excellent Cole, pressurised Cole into a horrendous error which left him and Taylor two on two with the Blues defence. A clever pass from the Mali striker put Taylor through, only to see his shot parried by Cech- but only into Maiga’s pass, and the supersub sealed the victory. A fantastic second half performance by the Hammers and a very much deserved win over Chelsea- our first for nine years.
Report by Alex Shilling
WEST HAM UNITED
Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O’Brien; Tomkins (‘Taylor ’46), O’Neil (Diame ’46), Noble, Nolan, Jarvis; Cole (Maiga ’87)
Substitutes: Spiegel, Spence, Taylor, Diame, Fanimo, Moncur, Maiga
Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Cole; Ramires, Mata, Mikel, Moses (Marin ’78), Hazard (Oscar ’73); Torres
Substitutes: Turnbull, Ferreira, Bertrand, Romeu, Oscar, Marin, Piazon
Man of the match: Carlton Cole, West Ham United
Referee: Martin Atkinson