Chelsea top as Manchester United stumble

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Chelsea maintained their 100 percent start to the Premier League season as Michael Essien’s double-strike inspired a 3-1 win over struggling West Ham at Upton Park on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side have scored 17 goals this season in their four consecutive victories, although they were helped on this occasion by another high-profile error from Hammers goalkeeper Robert Green.

Essien had headed the champions into an early lead before Green gifted the second to Kalou with a mistake that had echoes of his blunder playing for England at the World Cup against the United States.

Ghana midfielder Essien added another late on before Scott Parker reduced the deficit for West Ham, who remain rooted to the bottom of the table after four straight defeats, with two goals scored and 12 conceded. Chelsea had the luxury of resting Florent Malouda ahead of their Champions League trip to face MSK Zilina on Wednesday, with their in-form winger on the bench.

It mattered little as they were ahead in the second minute through Essien’s header from Didier Drogba’s corner.

Chelsea midfielder Ramires, making his debut following his transfer from Benfica, won the set-piece with a powerful run from deep.

Drogba swung over the corner and Essien climbed between Mark Noble and Herita Ilunga to head past Green, despite the efforts of Carlton Cole on the line.

It was Essien’s first goal of the campaign, with his previous strike coming on his final appearance last season before he suffered a serious knee injury.

The goal allowed the champions to play at their own pace and they were happy to sit on their lead, only for Green to gift them a second with his poor handling.

Drogba’s 25-yard free-kick was straight at Green and also lacked power, but it was spilled into open play. Matthew Upson could have punted the ball clear but his clearance struck Kalou and looped in.

It capped a frustrating week for Upson after he was included in the England squad for their European Championship qualifiers but was not on the bench for either victory.

Upson did prevent Kalou grabbing a third when he made a last-ditch tackle, but Chelsea were firmly in control by then.

John Obi Mikel also struck the crossbar with a powerful volley before the break as the Blues looked increasingly likely to add to their advantage.

West Ham striker Victor Obinna, on his debut after being loaned from Inter Milan, was the hosts’ only serious goal threat.

Cole chipped through for Obinna and he planted his finish wide, then he cut inside and was off-target with his angled drive.

Cole also had an effort disallowed for offside but they could not reduce the deficit before the interval and Avram Grant made his move by bringing on Kieron Dyer to replace Luis Boa Morte for the second half.

But it was proving tough to break down a Chelsea defence who had not conceded a Premier League goal in the first three matches of the season.

In fact, Chelsea looked like scoring on the counter-attack, firstly when Ramires tried his luck when West Ham defenders were backing off.

Then Kalou cut in from the right flank and curled an effort just wide of Green’s post, while Drogba had an effort saved when his shot was heading into the bottom corner.

Essien’s second goal came with seven minutes left as he headed in from Paulo Ferreira’s cross.

Parker pulled one back with a deft lob after Cech punched a corner clear but it was too little too late for West Ham, who also saw Frederic Piquionne miss a sitter.

Ancelotti delighted at Essien return

 Carlo Ancelotti hailed fit-again midfielder Michael Essien as “better than a new signing” after the Ghanaian inspired Chelsea to a 3-1 victory over rock-bottom West Ham with a headed double.

“I think he’s better than a new signing,” said Ancelotti. “We missed him last season because he’s one of the top midfielders in the world. He came back and we’re happy he can maintain this level of play.”He’s fit now. We have to pay attention because he’s playing well, all the games at the start of the season. He scored today, and that’s fantastic. He’s a fantastic jumper and I hope he maintains this position for as long as possible.”Captain John Terry, who only recently recovered from a hamstring injury, was forced off in the second half with a rib injury but Ancelotti is confident he will be fit for the Champions League clash against MSK Zilina next week.”John took a knock on his ribs. We’ll have a look tomorrow and I hope he will be fit for Wednesday. Tomorrow it will be more clear. I don’t think it’s broken. He took a knock in the first half and played again for 60 minutes. But before the end of the game, he came off.”Our start means nothing. We have started better than Manchester United, but it will be a long race. I said last year that the race is only decided at the end of the season. I will say the same this year.”There are moments during the season where you are not lucky. United conceded two goals in the last few minutes today against Everton. It can happen to us the same.”West Ham boss Avram Grant remains bullish despite his team being rooted to the foot of the table without a point and having conceded three goals in each of their four games. England international goalkeeper Green, who blundered in the World Cup, was at fault for Chelsea’s second but he continues to have the support of his manager.”Every player has good days and bad days,” said Grant. “We’re winning as a team and losing as a team. I don’t like to speak about individual players. It’s not easy when you concede the first goal. They came out very well and found the second goal. It’s amazing because Chelsea didn’t create any chances in that first half.”Even their goal wasn’t a good chance. We created three chances, then conceded. We could easily have scored, but didn’t. We have a lot of positive things to take from the game. If we continue like this, the future will be good. If you saw the level we played, it’s not a team for relegation. The team will improve and improve. We have improved a lot of things, but if we play like this it’ll be good.”But with speculation over his future at Upton Park already beginning to surface, Grant continues to insist he is here for the long term. “I’m not happy we lost the game,” he added. “We have zero points, and we’ve deserved more from our last two home games. The owners won’t be happy either, but they know it’s a long-term project. I don’t think we’ll be in this position after 25 or 30 games.”

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