My Soccer World

Football: Zola Hammers Chelsea’s Chance Of Topping EPL

Posted on: December 15, 2008

LONDON: Gianfranco Zola stopped his old club Chelsea from returning to the top of the English Premier League as his West Ham side claimed a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

On his return to Chelsea, where the former Italy striker holds legendary status, the fledgling manager’s Hammers team gained a well-earned point in a fiercely contested London derby.

Wales striker Craig Bellamy gave the visitors a 33rd-minute lead with a well-taken strike but France forward Nicolas Anelka rescued a point for Chelsea in the 51st minute with his 100th Premier League goal.

The result means Chelsea remain second in the Premier League table, one point behind Liverpool, while West Ham’s struggle to pull away from the relegation zone is helped by a useful point gained away from home.

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari had treatment for a kidney stone problem overnight but was well enough to take charge on the touchline.

Despite substitute Didier Drogba scoring the winner in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Romania’s CFR Cluj that put them into the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday, Scolari kept the Ivory Coast forward on the bench with Anelka remaining as the sole striker.

Frank Lampard came in for Salomon Kalou in the only change to the Blues line-up.

Zola was given a warm welcome back to Stamford Bridge by the home fans, and the Sardinian’s exit from the tunnel was delayed by several warm exchanges with Blues backroom staff.

Germany captain Michael Ballack missed the first scoring chance of the game, firing over the bar after Lampard dummied.

Lampard them combined with fellow former West Ham midfielder Joe Cole, sending his England team-mate through but Cole’s shot from close range deflected wide off former Blues midfielder Scott Parker.

Both sides were struggling to create goalscoring opportunities and convert corners into dangerous chances.

But fired-up forward Bellamy broke the deadlock with a well-taken strike in the 33rd minute.

Parker took down Herita Ilunga’s throw-in, rounded right-back Jose Boswinga as he charged into the penalty box and cut the ball back for Bellamy, who chested it down and blasted a shot low inside goalkeeper Petr Cech’s near post.

Anelka missed a good chance just before the interval, blasting a bobbling ball wide when presented with a good chance to hit the target.

Scolari had seen enough and replaced the booked Ballack with Drogba at half-time to sharpen up Chelsea’s attack.

But within six minutes Anelka reminded Scolari of his shooting skills with a well-taken goal.

After smart passing among the Chelsea ranks, Drogba laid the ball off to Lampard outside the penalty box and the former Hammer clipped it over the visitors’ back line for Anelka.

The France striker took a half-volley in his stride, hitting it down into the turf and beyond goalkeeper Robert Green’s dive for the equaliser.

Chelsea went in search of a winner, with Lampard firing a volley straight at Green five minutes later and then screwing another shot wide.

Lampard hit a long-distance shot at Green in the 65th minute, which the England international managed to smother at the second attempt.

Alex then had a shot on the turn deflected over the crossbar and Green had to be alert to keep out Drogba’s volley from the resulting corner.

Parker headed a 79th-minute effort off the line as Chelsea upped the pressure and Scolari brought on Kalou and Juliano Belletti in a bid to capitalise on their dominance.

Lampard was seemingly clipped in the penalty box by Hammers captain Lucas Neill but referee Mike Riley waved away his penalty claims.

In injury time, Carlton Cole could have hit a shock winner after being played through by Valon Behrami but Cech saved his low shot to secure a point for Chelsea in their bid to recapture the Premier League title. – AFP/de

Channel News Asia

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