Battling Hammers stay off the bottom!

West Ham United 1 Chelsea 1 By Dave Evans at Upton Park WEST HAM fans can breathe a sigh of relief – they will not be bottom of the Premier League at Christmas. What s more, this performance will give renewed heart to the supporters who had already wr

West Ham United 1 Chelsea 1

By Dave Evans at Upton Park

WEST HAM fans can breathe a sigh of relief - they will not be bottom of the Premier League at Christmas.

What's more, this performance will give renewed heart to the supporters who had already written off their team's chances of avoiding the dreaded drop. There is fight in this team yet, and if they can repeat it against the lesser teams, then surely they will be all right.

West Ham thoroughly deserved a point from this clash with the league leaders. Chelsea had plenty of possession, but West Ham harried them at every corner, put them out of their stride and also had their moments at the attacking end too.

Scott Parker was superb in the middle of the park once again, driving his team forward from start to finish, while Alessandro Diamanti caused problems all afternoon and Guillermo Franco never stopped running.

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This turned out to be a game of four penalties, all of them scored, though with the score finishing 1-1, there was certainly some controversy about all of them.

A slow start, saw Chelsea have the better of the half chances, with Frank Lampard forcing a good early save from Rob Green and Branislav Ivanovic heading a corner on to the roof of the net.

West Ham's injury problems continued when Danny Gabbidon limped off after just 19 minutes, though James Tomkins had an excellent game alongside the returning Matty Upson when he came on.

The superb Parker came to the rescue on 23 minutes when he chested Ivanovic's header off the line, in much the same way he had done against Burnley a few weeks ago, while at the other end, West Ham were testing Chelsea with some crisp passing.

Diamanti ghosted past his marker and nearly put in Mark Noble, while Parker found Herita Ilunga with a superb pass and when the full back crossed low, Jack Collison was just unable to get in a shot.

Drogba hit the side-netting after Lampard's quickly taken free kick, but it was West Ham who provided the biggest surprise as they grabbed the lead on 45 minutes.

Franco slipped the ball into the area to Collison and as he collected the ball, Ashley Cole felled him and referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot.

After a quick chat between Diamanti and Noble about who would take it, the Italian stepped up and coolly sent Peter Cech the wrong way to give the Hammers a half-time lead.

Most West Ham fans must have been sceptical about their team's chances of holding out in the second half, but the team proved more resilient than they have been in recent weeks.

Drogba almost scored from an acute angle, but on 58 minutes, Chelsea were given a golden opportunity to equalise in controversial circumstances.

Drogba slipped the ball to substitute Daniel Sturridge, but his run seemed to be stopped in its tracks by a superb tackle by Upson.

The referee remained motionless, but the linesman waved his flag and Dean pointed to the spot.

"I think the referee got it right in the first place," said Zola. "Then the linesman put his flag up and the referee changed his mind. It was a pity he didn't stick to his first decision."

The controversy did not end there. Lampard buried the spot kick into the far corner, but the referee made him take it again because of encroachment. This time the England midfielder beat Green down the middle, but incredibly Dean once more forced him to take another kick.

Once more Lampard held is nerve, sent Green the wrong way and the scores were level.

That was surely it, Chelsea would go on to win easily, but that was far from the truth as West Ham were equal to the Blues all over the pitch.

Diamanti forced a fine save from Cech on 71 minutes, before beating two players eight minutes later only to see his effort blocked by John Terry.

Perhaps the best penalty shout of the day came on 80 minutes when Ricardo Carvalho seemed to barge Franco to the ground at a corner, but it went unseen by the referee.

Substitute Yuri Zhirkov went close with a low shot that Green saved at full stretch, but the last chance came for West Ham.

Diamanti's free kick was met by the head of Franco just a couple of yards out, but his header was stunningly saved by Cech, and the linesman was already flagging for offside.

Zola was delighted with the performance: "The attitude, the passion, the quality that we put on the pitch today was remarkable.

"We knew the team in front of us was better than us, so we had to do something different. That was the key. We played with passion and we had the crowd on our side."

They did, but anyone can raise their game to play against the top teams. West Ham must now do it against Portsmouth on Boxing Day.

West Ham: Green, Faubert, Ilunga, Gabbidon (Tomkins 19), Upson, Collison, Parker, Kovac, Noble, Diamanti, Franco. Unused subs: Stech, Jimenez, Spector, Da Costa, Nouble, Stanislas.

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