Chelsea too good despite Parker cracker

Chelsea 4 West Ham United 1 BY STEVE BLOWERS AT STAMFORD BRIDGE Gianfranco Zola has set West Ham a target of ten points for survival and they left Stamford Bridge still needing that daunting double-figure haul, after Didier Drogba s double plus strikes

Chelsea 4 West Ham United 1

BY STEVE BLOWERS AT STAMFORD BRIDGE

Gianfranco Zola has set West Ham a target of ten points for survival and they left Stamford Bridge still needing that daunting double-figure haul, after Didier Drogba's double plus strikes from Alex and Florent Malouda condemned the Hammers to a miserable defeat.

Scott Parker's spectacular 30th-minute equaliser was the only silver lining of a desperately dark West End afternoon and, as Chelsea climbed to the top of the Premier League, wobbling West Ham were left to contemplate an equally tough trip to the Emirates Stadium, next Saturday.


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Following last week's unexpected home defeat against fellow basement battlers, Bolton Wanderers, Zola intriguingly made five changes as Kieron Dyer, Fabio Daprela, Mido, Ilan and Danny Gabbidon replaced Guillermo Franco, Julian Faubert plus substitutes Alessandro Diamanti, Carlton Cole and James Tomkins.

It may have been mid-March but having undertaken a root and branch examination of his struggling 16th-placed side, the Italian opted for a curious 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation that saw Ilan and Kieron Dyer lining up behind Mido.

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And with just 12 minutes on the clock, the re-shuffled Hammers should have taken the lead, when Jonathon Spector bulldozed his way along the byline before inviting Mido to cut back to the unmarked Ilan, who wastefully fired high over from eight yards.

The Brazilian's wayward blast was to prove costly for, on the quarter-hour mark, Malouda - who was destined to enjoy an afternoon of left-flank freedom - sent his half-cleared, corner back into the danger zone, where Alex rose highest to nod the Blues ahead with his first strike of the season.

After their FA Cup quarter-final victory over Stoke City, Chelsea had been forced to field third-choice goalkeeper Ross Turnbull in place of the injured Henrique Hilario, while Michael Ballack came in for the benched Salomon Kalou.

With Carlo Ancelotti's second-placed side now in front, top-scorer Didier Drogba then squandered a quartet of chances to double his team's advantage but, ironically, on the half-hour, it was former Blues midfielder Parker, who showed him how it should be done, when he chested down and sent and sent a simply unstoppable, dipping 25-yarder over the rookie 'keeper and under the right-hand angle.

Parker's first goal of the season certainly lifted East End spirits and with West Ham now determined to get to the interval all-square, Robert Green then denied Frank Lampard with a brilliant one-handed save before fielding efforts from Nicolas Anelka and Paulo Ferreira to keep it level at the break.

Four minutes after the restart Mido was cautioned for upending Ballack and, as the Hammers continued to battle, Dyer broke forward before slashing wildly across goal to the frustration of his supporting team-mates.

But, on 55 minutes, West Ham's resistance was broken, when John Terry marauded through midfield before playing in the unmarked Malouda, who with all the freedom of the Fulham Road whipped in another hanging centre from the left, for Drogba to nod Chelsea in front, once more.

Shortly afterwards, Alex powered another header goalwards, where Green athletically pawed the ball aside for another Blues corner, before both sides made switches as ex-Hammer Joe Cole came on for Anelka, while Mido and Dyer stood down for Carlton Cole and Junior Stanislas.

Although Carlton Cole quickly sent a shot on the turn bobbling just inches wide, West Ham's interest in this London derby was then extinguished with a quarter-hour remaining, when Malouda picked up Gabbidon's headed clearance before charging into the heart of the Hammers defence and threading a low 18-yarder between the outstretched left palm of Green and the post.

Then as stoppage time approached, ex-Hammer Frank Lampard - who had just hit the post - unleashed another low effort that Green could only parry into the path of Drogba, who eagerly gobbled up his 27th goal of the season to round off a miserable afternoon for the East enders.

CHELSEA: Turnbull, Ivanovic (Zhirkov 79), Ferreira, Terry, Allex, Ballack, Lampard, Mikel, Malouda (Kalou 86), Drogba, Anelka (Cole 65). Unused: Taylor, Deco, Sturridge, Bruma.

HAMMERS: Green, Spector, Daprela, Upson, Gabbidon, Kovac, Parker, Behrami, Dyer (Stanislas 67), Ilan (Diamanti 83), Mido (Cole 67). Unused: Stech, McCarthy, Tomkins, Collison.

Referee: Mark Clattenburg (Co. Durham). Attendance: 41,755.

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