Chelsea v Hammers

For half an hour, it was all going so perfectly. 1-0 up against the Premiership champions, who were down to 10 men after just 17 minutes, and playing a brand of stylish, controlled football that had the travelling Hammers fans purring with delight.

Then Jose Mourinho's team of international superstars stepped up a gear, and two goals either side of half-time ruled out James Collins's 10th minute opener to increase Chelsea's lead at the top of the Premiership table to 10 points and prove that, even with a man short, the Blues are a formidable proposition.

Having returned from a warm weather training break in Dubai on Friday, Hammers entered the game in a fresh and positive mood. Anton Ferdinand was ruled out with a recurrence of the groin injury he sustained last month, meaning that Lionel Scaloni came in at right-back as the only change to Alan Pardew's starting line-up following last week's 0-0 draw with Charlton.

Having seen their lead at the top of the Premiership cut to seven points following a run of relatively poor results, Chelsea were understandably determined to get back to winning ways in front of their home fans, and began the game in

Having weathered that early storm, though, Hammers began to settle into their rhythm and, with Benayoun tucked inside and Harewood playing wide on the right, certainly weren't approaching the game negatively. On 10 minutes, Harewood forced a corner on the right and, from Benayoun's kick, Collins beat his marker at the near post to send a powerful header beyond the despairing dive of Cech to send the 3,000-strong claret and blue army wild.

Chelsea almost replied immediately when Didier Drogba crossed from the left and Maniche crashed a shot against the bar, but Hammers continued to play on the front foot and Etherington almost doubled the lead moments later when he unleashed a dipping volley from 20 yards out that had Cech scrambling across his goal to save.

Things got even better for the visitors on 17 minutes, when Chelsea were reduced to 10 men. Only Maniche will know what was going through his mind when he launched into an ugly challenge on Lionel Scaloni that had the Argentinian writhing in agony, leaving referee Chris Foy with no alternative but to brandish a straight red card.

Scaloni thankfully managed to walk off his injury but, perhaps angered by the turn of events, Chelsea reacted like a wounded animal and, out of the blue, drew level on 29 minutes. Lampard's hooked ball from his own half beat Collins and released Drogba, who saw his first effort saved by Hislop but then converted the rebound as Gabbidon tried in vain to clear off the line.

Just two minutes later, the hosts were in front. This time Drogba turned creator, gaining possession on the right side of the penalty area and firing in a low cross-shot that found its way to the far post, where Hernan Crespo was on hand to tap home.

Pards pushed Harewood up front alongside Ashton at the start of the second half in an attempt to make the most of our one-man advantage but, just nine minutes in, Chelsea claimed their crucial third goal.

Defender William Gallas found himself on the ball 18 yards out and unleashed a fierce effort that crashed off the bar, but the ball dropped to John Terry, who was on hand to smash a volley into the ground and beyond Hislop from 12 yards out.

Hammers rallied briefly after that and might have set up a comeback had Harewood made the most of a glorious opportunity on 61 minutes, but the striker misjudged his header and the ball dropped out for a goal-kick.

Nine minutes later, Chelsea sealed their victory with a scrappy fourth. Substitute Robben whipped in a free-kick from the right that Ashton could only divert upwards, and Drogba nodded down for the unmarked Gallas to slot home from just a few yards out.

Pards sent on Teddy Sheringham and Bobby Zamora late on as Hammers fought bravely to muster something from the game, but the organisation, power and all-round quality of Chelsea simply couldn't be breached. The chant of the delighted Stamford Bridge crowd summed it up simply: 'That's why we're Champions.'