Chelsea kept themselves at the top of the Premier League table with a Boxing Day victory over London rivals West Ham at Stamford Bridge. John Terry and Diego Costa scored the all-important goals to see off the fourth placed Hammers, thus extending their lead over City to six points before the champions played later in the day (and won at West Brom).
Last week’s win at Stoke felt like a big victory for the team, keeping them top on Christmas Day, and Mourinho was looking to follow that up with another one here. The Blues returned to what is considered their best team, with John Obi Mikel making way for Oscar. Given West Ham’s defensive performance in their last game at the Bridge, the so-called “19th century football”, the extra attacking numbers would be needed.
This time, the West Ham defensive barrier wasn’t quite so difficult to crack. The Blues took the lead after the half hour mark, with Terry scoring the opener from a corner for the second game in a row. Cesc Fabregas’ corner was headed down by Costa, straight into the path of the captain who stuck out a foot and tapped it home from a few yards out, which was the perfect way to silence the away support.
The Blues dominated for the rest of the half, and there was controversy when Branislav Ivanovic went down in the area under a challenge from Andy Carroll. The striker looked to have had his arm out, but a penalty would have been a little on the harsh side. There was a coming together of several players in the aftermath, and the referee handled it smartly by keeping his cards pocketed.
The second half was quite even, with West Ham pushing forward with more energy and belief. Chelsea had opportunities from free kicks, with Willian and Costa going close before the home side finally doubled the lead, through top scorer Costa. Possession fell to Eden Hazard on the half way line, and he quickly fed it to the Spaniard. He straight away went looking for goal, and – after twisting and turning – Costa evaded the attentions of three West Ham defenders and fired home from just outside the box.
Thibaut Courtois was given a couple of scares towards the end after going largely without hassle for most of the match. Morgan Amalfitano’s header caught the keeper off guard, and it went just wide of the post. He got even closer moments later, jinking past Terry and Gary Cahill before seeing his shot come back off the post.
That little revival for West Ham came to nothing, with the Blues recording a 14th clean sheet in 17 home Premier League games. It was a Mourinho special, a goal in each half, a clean sheet and a comfortable 2-0 win. It was a deserved three points, and they’ll now be looking forward to their visit to Southampton on Sunday, as the games just keep on coming.
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