West Ham United 1 Chelsea 3

In a closely-fought and exciting encounter at Upton Park, Marlon Harewood's strike wasn't enough to prevent Chelsea taking all three points in the opening game of 2006, as goals from Frank Lampard, Hernan Crespo and Didier Drogba sealed a 3-1 win.

Alan Pardew made two changes to the team that started Saturday's defeat at Charlton. Carl Fletcher and Yossi Benayoun return, in place of Shaun Newton and Jeremie Aliadiere. Bobby Zamora was fit enough to be named as a substitute, but Tomas Repka and Danny Gabbidon were ruled out again. Chelsea made five changes to their team after Saturday's win over Birmingham City. Frank Lampard started on his return to Upton Park, while Glen Johnson was on the bench but Joe Cole was suspended.

Amidst a white-hot derby atmosphere, Chelsea made the more assured start and Lampard almost silenced the jeers of the home crowd inside two minutes, with a dipping long-range free-kick that Roy Carroll was forced to palm over for a corner.

Lampard then saw another dead-ball effort, this time in a central position some 25 yards out, blocked by the defensive wall and, having rode the early storm, Hammers then settled down and began to get going, buoyed on by the vociferous support of the home crowd.

Chelsea were forced into making an change after just 12 minutes, when Michael Essien was stretchered off after a collision with Nigel Reo-Coker. The Ghanaian midfielder was replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen, to provide another example of the strength in depth afforded to Jose Mourinho.

Minutes later, the visitors created the first clear chance of the game, when Del Horno's deep cross from the left was met by an unmarked Arjen Robben, whose sweet left-foot volley from 12 yards out was on target but thankfully straight at Carroll.

Sadly, that wasn't the case on 25 minutes, as Chelsea took the lead with a strike from the same position. Hammers may have had cause for complaint after Damien Duff had won a throw out on the right despite appearing to be in an offside position, but from Geremi's launch, Yossi Benayoun failed to clear the loose ball and Lampard was on hand to fire past Carroll.

Hammers responded brightly and almost carved out an equaliser just moments after when Etherington played a neat one-two with Marlon Harewood, but Peter Cech was out quickly to smother the winger's effort.

On 35 minutes, the hosts had Carroll to thank for keeping the deficit to one, as Robben glided into the penalty area and unleashed a fierce drive that the Irish keeper superbly tipped round the post for a corner.

The game began to reach boiling point as the interval neared, with Benayoun and Reo-Coker both involved in clashes with Geremi, who appeared to catch his opponents with flailing arms in two separate incidents, but the half-time whistle arrived to bring the action to a halt.

Half-time: West Ham United 0 Chelsea 1

Hammers stepped out for the second half hoping to make a lively start and begin a fight-back, but surely no-one in the 34,758 crowd could have expected Alan Pardew's men to do just that only 22 seconds after the restart. A hopeful ball forward was pushed out wide by Harewood to Reo-Coker, who then provided an instant return pass that set the striker clean through on goal.

Goalkeeper Cech managed to get a hand to Harewood's low effort but the ball spun up and looped towards goal, with Marlon following up on the goal-line to make sure of his 10th Premiership goal this season, almost raising the roof off the Boleyn Ground in the process.

The equaliser certainly reignited the game's spark, and tempers boiled over moments later as Carl Fletcher and Lampard were involved in a scuffle that saw both players booked. Lampard then came close to doubling his tally when he latched on to Drogba's clever dummy and fired in a shot that Carroll did well to block.

On the hour mark, Mourinho made his second substitution, bringing on Argentinian striker Hernan Crespo in place of Duff. And just one minute later, the switch paid off. Robben, now playing in a free role behind the front two, capitalised on a loose ball and threaded the ball through for Crespo, who rounded Carroll with his first touch of the game and fired into an empty net with his second.

It was yet another example of the huge resources and range of world-class options available to the Chelsea head coach, and proved once again why the champions are odds on favourites to retain their Premiership crown.

With 20 minutes remaining, Pards sent on Bobby Zamora in place of Hayden Mullins to add further presence to the attack but, as Hammers threw men forward in search of another equaliser, the visitors began to exploit the gaps and hit on the break.

After Crespo had missed two gilt-edged chances within the space of 60 seconds, hope still remained, but with 10 minutes left, Chelsea broke away again and Gudjohnsen this time fed Drogba, who made no mistake with a text-book strike that flew past Carroll into the bottom corner.

Hammers battled on bravely, led by the excellent Nigel Reo-Coker, who showed he is back to his energetic best with a commanding performance in the centre of midfield but, with the exception of a Benayoun effort that curled high over the bar, there wasn't a way through the Blues' solid back-line

The final whistle signalled Hammers' third successive Premiership defeat, but Pards' troops were able to walk off the field with their heads held high after a display of fantastic effort and no little quality against the best team in England.