Juan Mata turned and cut, forcing the West Ham defense 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. It sails on him, falling harmlessly wide. Instead of burying his face in his hands, groaning, and trotting back, he turns to the crowd with a huge grin on his face.
The boys are finally having some fun.
The lightning-quick feet of Eden Hazard and the clinical-enough Lampard struck to down West Ham 2-0, producing one of the more dominant games of the season for Chelsea. They controlled the tempo of the game, to the tune of 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, Juan Mata and Eden 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 5 (4 from Hazard). Hazard practically made a game of Joey O'Brien, turning him, nutmegging him, and running by him like he was just a cone. Mata set the tempo, stretching West Ham's defense every which way and rendering West Ham's defensive press useless.
West Ham approached this game defensively, but with a different approach that usual. They focused a press on Chelsea's attacking midfielders with numbers, and lobbed balls forward to Andy Carroll and Matt Jarvis to counterattack. Chelsea have struggled with press tactics before, but that usually came when they focused on pressing the defensive mid pivots. Today, 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've 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 (who played a fantastic game). His hold-up play and movement were fantastic, and he separates West Ham's defense well by pushing the center halves deep, 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's that much closer to cementing his status as the great goal-scoring number 8 of all time. And, most of all, it means the spirit's starting to return to the club, out of the shadow of Roman and Rafa. Is this the beginning of the end of the controversy? Hard to say. But it's a nice start.