Champions have the edge

West Ham United's disappointing start to the 2010/11 Barclays Premier League season continued with a 3-1 home defeat by champions Chelsea a fortnight ago.

The Hammers fell behind within two minutes to a Michael Essien and when Salomon Kalou netted a fortuitous second on 18, Avram Grant's side were left with a mountain to climb.

While Essien's opener was down to loose marking - the Ghanaian was allowed time and space to head Didier Drogba's left-wing corner powerfully past Robert Green - Kalou's effort could be blamed on sheer bad luck.

When Green mis-handled Drogba's dipping free-kick, it appeared danger would be averted when Matthew Upson got to the ball first, only for the captain's clearance to cannon off Kalou's right heel and loop into the unguarded net.

Debutant Victor Obinna led the attempted fightback with a willing and lively display up front, seeing one volley held by Petr Cech before flashing two shots wide of the target, while strike partner Carlton Cole saw a 'goal' rightly chalked off for offside shortly before half-time.

The second half saw West Ham keep up the pressure on the Blues, with Kieron Dyer adding pace and intent to the hosts' attacking forays, but the goal that could have caused uncertainty in the Chelsea ranks just would not come.

Instead, it was the visitors who continued to create the better chances. Kalou curled a shot narrowly wide of the post before fellow Ivorian Drogba worked Green with a powerful low drive that the England goalkeeper was forced to parry to one side.

West Ham's No1 had to be alert once more with 17 minutes remaining, smothering Branislav Ivanovic's close-range effort after the Serb had latched on to Drogba's free-kick.

The Hammers' resistance cracked for a third time on 83 minutes, though, as Essien added his second of the game with another unstoppable header. This time, it was right-back Paulo Ferreira who supplied the assist, sending over an inch-perfect cross for the midfielder to head past the exposed Green.

To their credit, the hosts did not give up the ghost and scored a deserved consolation goal two minutes later. Cech could only punch Mark Noble's corner to Scott Parker, who sent the ball sailing back over the goalkeeper with a beautifully-judged lob-volley.

Indeed, West Ham could even have set-up a grandstand finish had substitute Frederic Piquionne found the back of the net instead of the underside of the crossbar with a 90th-minute header from just two yards.

Afterwards, Hammers man of the match Obinna insisted there were plenty of reasons to be optimistic, despite seeing his new club fall to their fourth straight league defeat.

"It was not the result we wanted, but it was a good start for me. I was happy with the way we played because we played good football. I was a disappointed with the chances we created because I had a couple of chances to put it in the back of the net.

"Unfortunately, I couldn't score, but we just have to improve and work hard and make sure that we take more of our scoring chances because that is the most important thing. There are better games to win and we just have to work hard towards those games.

"English football is very, very fast! I really enjoyed myself because it's what I wanted. I wanted to be here and to feel the taste of the English football. I'm really happy to be here. I believe I will have good days here with West Ham.

"Mostly we have to defend well and I believe we're going to score at Stoke. We have to start scoring. We played against a tough team in the champions and it was a very tough debut, but against Stoke we know it's going to be a different ball game. We are on the same level and just have to play to our best to make sure we win the game.

"It was really an encouraging start for us because it wasn't nasty. A couple of the players are new here and we just need a little bit of time to bring an understanding and get to work together. I believe in the next couple of games we will find it."