West Ham United 0 Chelsea 4

Last updated : 01 March 2008 By Footymad Previewer
Chelsea put their Wembley wobble behind them with an emphatic East End win that was signed, sealed and delivered inside the first half of the opening period.

Ex-Hammers Frank Lampard and Joe Cole had already silenced Upton Park by the time that Michael Ballack volleyed home the third on 22 minutes.

And not even the dismissal of Lampard ten minutes before the break could knock Avram Grant's side out of their stride, as Ashley Cole netted a fourth for the depleted West End boys midway through the second half to move them within seven points of Premier League leaders Arsenal.

With just two defeats in ten league matches, mid-table West Ham had named an unchanged line-up following last Saturday's victory at Fulham, while Grant made six changes after the disastrous Carling Cup loss - Chelsea's first reverse in all competitions for 17 games - against Tottenham Hotspur.

Ballack, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele, Paulo Ferreira, Salomon Kalou and Joe Cole each returned in place of Wayne Bridge, John Obi Mikel, Juliano Belletti, Shaun Wright-Phillips and substitutes Michael Essien and Didier Drogba and the highly-charged half-dozen soon set about their business.

Indeed, Nicolas Anelka had a second minute effort ruled out by an offside flag, before Anton Ferdinand's careless trip on the cantering Kalou enabled the heavily-lambasted Lampard to silence the Upton Park boo-boys with a clinical spot-kick that sent Robert Green the wrong way.

Within two minutes, Chelsea's other ex-Hammer, Joe Cole, had doubled the advantage when he collected Anelka's cut back and expertly threaded a low, angled 18-yarder into the far corner of the bemused Green's net.

On 22 minutes, the outside of Lampard's right boot found Ballack, whose first-time 15-yard volley beat the flat-footed keeper before almost ripping the net off its hooks.

Although former Chelsea striker Carlton Cole had gone close in the opening minutes, Petr Cech had been a mere spectator but, as the half-hour mark approached he brilliantly diverted Mark Noble's 20-yarder over the crossbar.

Chelsea may have been cruising but their determination was there for all to see and they were reduced to ten men when Lampard appeared to be harshly red carded by referee Peter Walton following a brief skirmish with Luis Boa Morte.

That dismissal finally brought some cheers from the West Ham faithful, who now had a tiny slither of hope, but as the interval neared John Terry nodded Noble's goalbound shot clear to keep that three-goal interval lead intact

Ashton replaced Boa Morte for the restart as Curbishley reverted to a two-pronged attack, but after Cech foiled the ever-present George McCartney, the never-say-die Terry also hooked Cole's lob off the goal line with his keeper stranded.

That though was the closest that West Ham were to come to reducing the arrears and they paid the price for pressing forward midway through the second period when Green could only parry the breaking Joe Cole's shot into the path of Ashley Cole, who made it four from an acute angle.