Chelsea too strong in derby

On an afternoon dedicated to the excellent work of the Richard House children's hospice, Chelsea were in uncharitable mood as they raced into a three-goal interval lead and then struck a fourth midway through the second period.

Former Boleyn Ground graduates Frank Lampard and Joe Cole set the visitors on their way, before Michael Ballack and then Ashley Cole added to the East End exasperation. Although Lampard's first-half expulsion kept home hopes faintly flickering, the defensive diligence of Petr Cech and John Terry denied Alan Curbishley any remote chance of pulling off a second-half comeback.

Facing west London opposition for the second successive Saturday, it proved to be a desperately disappointing return home for tenth-placed West Ham United following last week's 1-0 victory at Fulham, where they had continued a solid sequence of just two defeats in ten Premier League outings. Curbishley named an unchanged team, while the fit-again Bobby Zamora was back on the bench alongside Dean Ashton, Jonathan Spector, Richard Wright and last week's match-winner Nolberto Solano.

Following last Sunday's Carling Cup final defeat - their first reverse in 17 matches in all competitions - the Blues arrived looking to put their Wembley woes behind them. Avram Grant made half-a-dozen changes to the side that lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur as Ballack, Ashley Cole, Claude Makelele, Paulo Ferreira, Salomon Kalou and Joe Cole each returned to a team still chasing Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League glory.

The reshuffled Stamford Bridge pack wasted no time showing their intentions as lone marksman Nicolas Anelka had a close-range tap-in ruled out by an offside flag as early as the second minute. Having survived that early scare, West Ham United's sole striker, Carlton Cole quickly sent an instinctive 20-yard volley just wide but, sadly, that was to prove just brief respite for Curbishley's men.

Indeed, on the quarter-hour mark, the escaping Kalou fell under Anton Ferdinand's tackle just inside the 18-yard box and Lampard, ignoring Robert Green's fearsome reputation for thwarting penalties, powered the consequent spot-kick to the right of the England keeper. Two minutes later another Boleyn Ground old boy doubled the lead, when Anelka cut back to Joe Cole, who fired an angled 18-yard grass-cutter across the face of the home defence and into the bottom, far corner of Green's net.

Then midway through the first-half, Lampard used the outside of his right boot to pick out Ballack, who thundered a first-time, 15-yard volley beyond the stunned West Ham United goalkeeper to give the Blues a three-goal lead. In reply, Cech bravely smothered Julien Faubert's attempted square-ball into the danger zone and then the flying Czech international acrobatically tipped Mark Noble's 20-yard effort over the crossbar.

On 35 minutes Chelsea were reduced to ten men when Lampard was red carded by referee Peter Walton following a skirmish with Luis Boa Morte, that also saw Ballack booked for protesting the England midfielder's innocence. Sensing just a glimmer of hope, West Ham United pressed forward and as the interval neared Terry headed away Noble's goalbound shot before being cautioned for tugging back Carlton Cole.

Things were more amicable off-the-field, though, as a male steward accepted a half-time, leap year proposal to the cheers of the sold-out 34,969 crowd and the claret and blue supporters amongst that number equally welcomed the arrival Ashton in place of Boa Morte for the restart. With West Ham United now lining up in a 4-4-2 formation against the depleted visitors, ever-present George McCartney - making his 33rd appearance of the season - saw Cech save his low shot and then, with his keeper beaten, Terry incredibly hooked Cole's lobbed effort off the line.

On 63 minutes, however, the Coles combined to end all hope of an unlikely comeback when Green parried the breaking Joe's low shot only for Ashley to lash in the loose ball from the tightest of tight angles. That was the cue for Zamora, for his first game since 28 August, and Solano to enter the proceedings as Cole and Faubert retired but with the evacuation of the Boleyn Ground well under way, the final stages were all about damage limitation ahead of Wednesday evening's trip to Liverpool.

Click here for the official team sheet