Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech’s lack of confidence has been there for all to see in recent weeks. Against both Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool the Czech international had many a Chelsea fans heads in their hands. Over those two games he conceded an astonishing seven goals.

In this game his flagging confidence was given a huge boost when he kept out Mark Noble’s penalty - given away by the Blues’ goal scorer Salomon Kalou - and set Chelsea on their way to three points that solidifies their grip on third place in the Premier League, and for the eternal optimists, keeps their feint title hopes alive.

With Barcelona in midweek very much on Guus Hiddink’s mind, the Dutchman made a number of changes from the side that drew 0-0 with Everton on Wednesday. In came Michael Mancienne, John Obi Mikel, Juliano Beletti and Jose Bosingwa, who was deployed at the unfamiliar position of left back.

As was the case against the Toffees, Chelsea dominated possession early on, producing some neat combination play. West Ham forfeited possession far too easily on numerous occasions, Junior Stanislas a particularly guilty culprit.

Florent Malouda’s flashed drive across Robert Green’s near post was his side’s best opportunity during the first period.

Despite their slackness in possession, Gianfranco Zola’s side managed to produce the clearest cut chances during the first half.

Kieron Dyer - making his first start for the Hammers since August 2007 - should have scored when he found himself one on one with Cech, but the injury plagued midfielder shot straight at him.

Then, with Cech stranded after coming to clear the ball from a corner, Diego Tristan had a poked shot cleared off the line by Mikel four minutes before half time.

Less than 10 minutes into the second half the away side finally got the goal that they had been threatening to score all afternoon.

Frank Lampard embarked on a skillful run on the left wing and played the ball into the box which was flicked on for Kalou, who took a touch before firing past Green.

Minutes later Dyer was again thwarted by Cech, who kept the Englishman’s shot out with a  diving save.

Nicolas Anelka - without a goal in 11 games - should have doubled Chelsea’s lead soon afterwards. The Blues’ top league goal scorer was played in by Beletti but shot straight at the onrushing Green.

Substitute Ashley Cole hit the bar after 65 minutes as Hiddink’s side took the pressure up a notch in search of a second goal that would surely end the game as a contest.

But then West Ham were given a golden opportunity to level things up when Kalou held Herita Ilunga back in the box and brought him down, turning himself from hero to potential villain in a matter of moments.

But Cech spared the Ivorian’s blushes - and gave himself a massive confidence boost -diving to his left to tip Mark Noble’s spot kick around the post.

The game died down after that brief flurry of excitement. Chelsea were content to play the ball around their back four and wind down the clock, soaking up any pressure West Ham exerted.

Minds were clearly starting to turn towards Tuesday’s Champions League encounter with Barcelona, a competition Guus Hiddink hopes to conquer to add to his already brimming CV.

Comments

Chelsea did reasonably well yesterday and considering what a great job Gianfranco "Golden" Zola and Steve "Superman" Clarke have done at West Ham, it puts the result in to a positive perspective. Anelka needs to regain the sharpness up front I think when Drogba's unavailable or rested.

Good to see Cech back in form after the minor blip. To be honest although he's probably not as confident in his area since the Reading injury in 2006 (who can blame him) he has been relatively consistent until those two games against Bolton and Liverpool and performed well the other night against Everton against the dismal Jo. Also hope Bosingwa does okay against Messi, won't be easy for anyone to mark him :(.

Anyway, shame that Howard Webb was so atrocious yesterday at Old Trafford, but you can't have everything I suppose...

A good read Alan :).

Everyone, especially Cech, needs to have a good game on Tuesday night, a clean sheet out there would be great if we could get it, but I'd take us scoring an away goal and keeping ourselves in contention for when the second leg rolls around.

Let us hope that this is a timely return to form for Czech with the Barcelona semi in a few days time. You make a very good point about Anelka, I knew he had not scored for a while but 11 games is a dreadful statistic for a striker who had been so prolific in the first half of the season. In fact I would go as far as to say that he had kept Chelsea in touch at a time when they needed inspiration. A good read Alan.

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Cech's heroics cement third spot