Juan Mata turned and cut, forcing the West Ham defence to give him just a hair of space. He hooked the ball with the wide side of his foot using every ounce of the space he'd just carved out to strike a curler at goal.
The ball sailed through the air, falling harmlessly wide of goal. Instead of burying his face in his hands, groaning, and trotting back, he looked at the crowd with a huge grin on his face.
Chelsea are finally having some fun.
The lightning-quick feet of Eden Hazard and the clinical Frank Lampard struck to help Chelsea towards a 2-0 win, producing one of the more dominant games of the season for the West London club. They controlled the tempo of the game, with 66% possession and 24 shots (11 on target). A brighter week ended on a great note for Chelsea, moving them into 3rd place after Tottenham faltered, and seeing Lampard move within two of Bobby Tambling's all-time Chelsea goals record.
How It Happened
From the first minute to the last, Mata and Hazard controlled this game. Even more than that, they made that dominance count. These two tricksters alone matched West Ham's shots on goal, with five (four from Hazard).
Hazard practically made a game of Joey O'Brien running by him like he was just a cone. Mata set the tempo, stretching West Ham's defence every which way and rendering their defensive press useless.
West Ham approached this game by pressing the attacking midfielders with numbers and lobbing balls forward to Andy Carroll and Matt Jarvis.
Chelsea has struggled with press tactics before, but that usually came when they focused on pressing the defensive mid pivots.
Hazard and Mata just dribbled around and through the press, breaking through it and finding space underneath. Lampard's early goal meant the Hammers couldn't settle into any kind of defensive shell, so they had to attack at least a little, and Hazard made them pay.
It could have been much worse, too, had Demba Ba not somehow tied his boots together; to the point he missed three 1-on-1s with Jussi Jaaskelainen. His hold-up play and movement was fantastic, and he separates West Ham's defense well, he just couldn't finish today.
What It Means
It means Chelsea finally have some momentum. It means they relieve at least a little pressure. It means Frank Lampard is that much closer to cementing his status as the great Chelsea goal-score of all time. And, most of all, it means the spirit is starting to return to the club, out of the shadow of Roman Abramovich and Rafa Benitez.
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