It wasn't a vintage performance by Chelsea, but the Blues still cantered to victory after two early goals gave them a comfortable lead over Avram Grant's side. West Ham put up a spirited resistance, even dominating the game at times, but they were simply unable to overcome the Chelsea defence until the very last minute, when Scott Parker lifted a magnificent volley into the top corner and Frederick Piquionne hit the crossbar from very close in. The Blues were similarly disjointed on the attack, but they have the quality to put opportunities away when they're presented, and a pair of headers from Michael Essien plus a freak Salomon Kalou goal proved enough for the full three points.
The first attack of the game led to the first goal. Ramires, making his first start in place of the injured Frank Lampard, showed some skills that the England midfielder lacks, driving hard at the defence down the flank and earning a corner. With Lampard out, Didier Drogba launched a right footed inswinger, dropping the ball perfectly atop Michael Essien's head. Goalkeeper Robert Green was stranded, but Carlton Cole launched himself at the ball, hoping for some miracle to see it clear. None was forthcoming, and Cole's header merely re-directed the football on its way into the net. It was 1-0 Chelsea without the Blues having broken a sweat.
Chelsea didn't have too many difficulties containing West Ham with a 1-0 lead, but they were having trouble moving the ball past their midfield duo of Scott Parker and Luis Boa Morte. Their most promising attacks all came down the flanks, but with Paulo Ferreira looking clueless in possession and Ashley Cole getting no support, they had a habit of breaking down massed resistance from the Hammers. Florent Malouda was keenly missed on the left, especially since countryman Nicolas Anelka was having an off match and barely got himself involved.
It was another set piece which gave Chelsea their next clear-cut opportunity, and thanks to some awful play by Robert Green and Matthew Upson they were able to convert. Drogba lashed in a 35 yard free kick straight at the keeper, but the ball bounced right in front of him and he spilled it. With Essien closing in, Matthew Upson raced to the ball and tried to smack it clear, only to see the ball bounce off Salomon Kalou's foot and loop back into the goal over the prone Green. It was a ridiculous error to make on both players' parts, but Kalou was lucky enough to take advantage and send the score to 2-0.
At this point, Chelsea switched off. While Ramires was making Essien-style penetrating runs, he lacks the subtlety of pass that Frank Lampard would usually provide, and he was responsible for far too many turnovers in the midfield. Chelsea's inability to hold the ball let West Ham get into dangerous positions a number of times, and if not for the profligate display by Victor Obinna they would have made their advantage count on the scoresheet by the end of the first half. The Nigerian's inability to finish may well have cost the home side their only true opportunity to get back into the game as he squandered chance after chance following Chelsea's second.
It was Jon Obi Mikel who came closest to scoring before halftime, however. West Ham were once again caught out by a corner, and when Branislav Ivanovic laid it off to the midfield enforcer at the edge of the box, there was clearly only one thing Mikel had in mind. An eyeblink later and the ball was rattling the corner of the woodwork with Robert Green motionless. It was an excellent strike by Mikel, who still doesn't have a Premier League goal in his career, and it's a real shame it didn't find its way in.
The rest of the first half was uneventful apart from John Terry going down in the box after a hard hit from Carlton Cole while challenging for a cross and said West Ham striker having a goal ruled out - correctly, it must be noted - for offside. Chelsea's Cole and Scott Parker both picked up bookings in the closing minutes of the first 45; one was deserved far more than the other!
There wasn't much point in Avram Grant's side trying to play defensively, and so Boa Morte was withdrawn and Kieron Dyer deployed in his place as the teams come out for the second half. While it didn't seem to have much impact at first - Chelsea dominated the game for the five minutes immediately following the break - Dyer's presence ultimately gave West Ham some much needed width and speed, and also served to peg Ashley Cole back into Chelsea's half.
As the game progressed it became apparent that Chelsea were not going to have an easy, open second half. Instead, they were mounting a spirited rearguard defence, with Terry, Ivanovic, Mikel, and Essien all performing extremely well in cutting out passes and making critical tackles. However, whenever the ball made its way to a Chelsea attacker, it was quickly turned over. Drogba in particular was trying party tricks rather than intelligent passes, and he was getting more than a few earful's worth of Ancelotti's ire in response.
Anelka had been disappointing as well, and he was eventually replaced by Gael Kakuta on the 76th minute. It made a difference, albeit not a very large one. Kakuta was instantly involved in the play, but he seemed tentative and unsure of himself on more than one occasion, also contributing a hilarious attempted shot from 30 yards that might not have gone 30 inches. However, he was still able to play a couple of very slick passes that might have resulted in chances if not for Rob Green cutting out danger whenever it presented itself.
Chelsea were starting to look likely to get a third now, and it came after good interplay between Mikel, Ramires, and Ferreira eventually released the Portuguese right back down the flank. Confusion reigned in the West Ham box, and it was Michael Essien who leaped highest to power the wicked cross into the net. He would pay for his temerity in scoring twice, as the home side did their best to rough him up for the rest of the game. The goal had been proceeded by the switch of John Terry for Alex, the captain's rib injury finally proving too much to play through.
Some might be tempted to attribute West Ham's goal to Terry not being on the field, but the fact of the matter is that Petr Cech made a poor play from a soft corner and Scott Parker hit the ball beautifully for an unstoppable shot. A weak punch by Cech found the midfielder in space at the edge of the box, and many players would have gone for a volley on the turn given that much space and the ball dropping out of the sky. Instead, Parker met the ball with the side of his foot, dropping the ball perfectly over Cech and Ashley Cole at the far post to cut Chelsea's lead back down to two, as well as breaking the scoreless streak Chelsea's defence had taken such pride in. With the game already won, there was not much else to do but tip one's hat to Parker for a job well done. Although Cech should get some blame for the goal, he had until that point played brilliantly, taking command of the area while West Ham were peppering the box with crosses for most of the second half.
Having covered himself in glory, Parker promptly disgraced himself by flying into Essien while the Ghanaian was receiving a pass, smashing his shoulder through the midfielder's head. The referee didn't see the incident, but the foul was clearly worth of a yellow, and as Parker had already incurred his first booking, I don't think anyone would have been surprised had the West Ham captain been sent for an early bath. The game started to get a little ugly, which suited the home side far more than ours, and they started to threaten again almost immediately, a neat passage of play ultimately culminating in Frederick Piquionne heading against the crossbar from less than a yard out after Carlton Cole had failed to make contact with a cross. Had he converted the opportunity, things might have been a little dicey for the Blues, but as it was, they were able to see out the 3-1 win.
With the win, Chelsea's perfect start to the season remains intact. Four wins out of four with 17 goals scored and one conceded is an admirable record, despite facing relatively weak competition. With Manchester United having dropped four points in their last three games, Chelsea are well ahead of their biggest rivals for the title. It's been a good start for the Blues.