Gianfranco Zola believes the impressive 1-1 draw his West Ham United side achieved at Chelsea can lay a solid foundation for the upcoming busy Christmas period.
Craig Bellamy's goal just after the half hour mark sent the visitors in ahead at half-time, but Chelsea, as expected, came out strongly in the second period and pulled level when Nicolas Anelka scored five minutes after the restart. Some teams may have buckled but Zola's side are made of sterner stuff and defiantly held out for a deserved point. "This point and the performance have been vital for our players, especially after last week's performance which came as a big shock for us," Zola said.
"We came on the back of an away win and a draw at Liverpool and then we lost a big game against Tottenham. Everyone felt it so this performance will help to again build up our confidence and maybe this time when we play at home we will have more freedom and less pressure."
The point denied Chelsea the chance to go back to the top of the Barclays Premier League and, even though they failed to win at home for the third consecutive home match, Zola was in no doubt about the scale of his team's achievement. "It was a great result and a very good performance from my team so it has been a great day.
"This place is not easy to come to let's make this clear. Today we were very good and made it difficult for them and you have to concede to Chelsea that when you play a Champions League match it drains you so we took advantage of that very well. But it won't be easy for anyone to come here and pick up points."
Bellamy ended his hunt for a goal by putting the Hammers in front after a good spell of pressure. After being desperately unlucky not to score at Anfield, the Wales captain made sure there was no mistake this time around by drilling a low shot past Petr Cech at his near post.
"For the goal I was very happy for my players, especially Bellamy because he needed that goal as he was working hard and was getting frustrated about not scoring so I'm sure that goal will help him. It honestly felt like I had scored, I'm very pleased for him."
Bellamy's partner in attack, Carlton Cole, may even have won it at the death, but for a fantastic save from Cech. In the end the sides had to settle for the draw, a result Zola thought was an honest reflection of the game. "Cole had a good shot and Petr Cech has made a very good save and also they had a very good chance but our goalkeeper was again outstanding so it was a fair result."
The pre-match build up was always going to be about the Italian's return to the place where he was a celebrated player, but he explains he did not need to use that fact to give his team extra encouragement before the match. He said: "We didn't even mention it to the players. We were playing live on TV against a strong team and were coming back from a bad result so all the motivations were there.
"The players have been good and are doing what they do all the time in training, playing the ball and passing it very well and they work it out. If they keep doing it all the time the results will continue to come."
The West Ham United manager received a warm reception from all four sides of Stamford Bridge before the game started but it was the away end who made most of the noise once the game got under way, with Zola responding to their requests for a wave on several occasions.
"I have had a fantastic reception and it's amazing, this is a special place for me and all of the supporters made this a great day for me. I must say a special big thank-you to our fans who were superb today and I'm really pleased we could get a result for them."