Cole nails Hammers
Joe Cole maintained Chelsea's drive towards the top of the Premier League as his goal secured a hard-fought 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday.
The Blues have settled into an ominous rhythm under Avram Grant and this latest triumph - which extended their unbeaten home league run to an astonishing 70 games - allowed them to leap-frog Manchester United into second place.
They had to sweat for their success. West Ham were valiant opponents who looked capable of storming Chelsea's Stamford Bridge citadel until Cole, helped by a generous linesman, swiped the points with a lovely goal with just 14 minutes remaining.
Visitors to one of the Premier League's big four have two options: to try and take the game to their betters and risk the kind of humiliation inflicted upon Manchester City here last month, or attempt to suffocate the match in the hope of snatching a useful point.
There was never much doubt as to which path the ever-cautious West Ham manager Alan Curbishley would choose, and West Ham duly set about trying to throttle the life out of a Chelsea side buoyed by a run of nine wins in their last 11 matches.
Hayden Mullins and Scott Parker were deployed as midfield attack dogs, charged with denying Chelsea - and Frank Lampard in particular - the space they need to thrive, and with Matthew Upson and Danny Gabbidon sticking to Didier Drogba like glue, the hosts were quickly frustrated.
They failed to have a shot on target until the 42nd minute and, while it made for a dismal spectacle, the visiting supporters from East London were not complaining.
They almost celebrated a goal themselves on one of the rare occasions their side forged past the half-way line.
In the 31st minute, John Terry and Alex were caught napping by an aerial ball, with the impressive Nolberto Solano stealing into space behind them.
His first-time lob cleared the back-pedalling Carlo Cudicini but dropped onto the top of the net.
Shortly after, Drogba made a bizarre complaint after losing possession in front of the West Ham fans behind Robert Green's goal.
The Ivory Coast striker immediately sprinted to the fourth official to complain that a supporter had flashed a laser beam in his eye, although it was not clear whether action was taken.
It was indicative of Chelsea's general loss of focus. Moments later, their annoyance got the better of them again when Jon Obi Mikel clattered through the back of Parker with referee Howard Webb generously opting to show just a yellow card. Salomon Kalou then followed suit almost immediately with a crude tackle on Luis Boa Morte.
Chelsea needed half-time to clear their heads and they started the second period in a more constructive mood. Within moments Steve Sidwell had seen a fierce drive well blocked by Upson and headed over from Lampard's corner, while Cole volleyed wide from eight yards.
With West Ham lively on the break, the game was delicately poised. A mistake or a piece of individual brilliance always seemed most likely to shatter the deadlock and in the 76th minute Chelsea got both.
Cole appeared fractionally ahead of the play when Kalou flicked on Mikel's header, but the England midfielder showed admirable composure to round Green and crunch a shot high into the net from a tight angle.