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14 Dec 2008 21:11
Chelsea missed the chance to reclaim top spot in the Premier League when they were held to a 1-1 home draw by West Ham United on Sunday, a day after Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal also drew.
Craig Bellamy put struggling West Ham ahead but Nicolas Anelka equalised six minutes into the second half.
Liverpool, who were held to a 2-2 home draw by Hull City at Anfield, lead the way on 38 points with Chelsea on 37. Manchester United, goalless at Tottenham Hotspur, are third on 32 but with a game in hand.
Arsenal slipped to fifth on 30 after drawing 1-1 at Middlesbrough, allowing Aston Villa to go fourth on 31 after they beat Bolton Wanderers 4-2.
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, once voted Chelsea’s greatest player by the club’s fans, was given a standing ovation before the game at Stamford Bridge but the home supporters were groaning after 33 minutes.
Wales striker Bellamy chested down an awkward ball from Mark Noble and sent a crashing shot emphatically past Petr Cech to give the visitors the lead.
Didier Drogba, who came off the bench to score the winner against CFR Cluj in the Champions League on Tuesday, was introduced for the second half in place of Michael Ballack.
Just as against the Romanians, he made an impact within six minutes, delivering a lovely flick to Frank Lampard, who chipped the ball neatly into the path of Anelka to finish well from close range for his 14th league goal of the season.
Robert Green then saved well from Drogba and Alex but the goalkeeper needed a goalline clearance by Scott Parker to keep the scores level after he misdirected a punch.
West Ham should have won it when Carlton Cole was through in injury time but Cech was able to save his weak finish.
Poor home form
Chelsea, who have won 11 successive away games in the league, have now won only three of their nine matches at Stamford Bridge this season.
“If we had shown more quality with the finishing we would have won,” Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who spent Saturday night in hospital after treatment for kidney stones, told Sky Sports.
Asked about the likelihood of playing Anelka and Drogba together up front, he said: “It’s dangerous both ways—when they play I lose my middle [midfield] and we need to train them many, many times more.”
Zola said: “The performance was outstanding, not only for the result but the way they played.”
“It’s not a great time for us but we don’t feel the pressure and we just want to go out and show that we were good.”
The former Chelsea forward, who made a deliberate effort not to celebrate his team’s goal, said he was touched by the welcome he was given.
“The first 15 minutes was strange with fans were singing my name and it was nice that I wasn’t forgotten,” he said.
In Sunday’s other game Newcastle United collected their first away win of the season when second-half goals from Michael Owen, Obafemi Martins and Danny Guthrie earned them a 3-0 victory at Portsmouth.
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