The London derby between Chelsea Football Club and West Ham United has always been a hotly contested fixture. Although not the biggest of rivalries, this fixture has nevertheless enjoyed its own share of memorable moments down the years. Frank Lampard’s move from the Hammers to the Blues has been the flashpoint of this rivalry in the last decade, and while this game’s outcome has not gone on to significantly affect either of these two in recent seasons, its considerable importance can be gauged from the scenes of jubilant celebrations at Upton Park last season, when West Ham defeated Chelsea 3-1. A lot of bubbles hovered over the pitch towards the end of the game, and it’s a sign that the Hammers went home really happy.
So as West Ham prepare to welcome Chelsea to hostile territory once again, let us wind the clocks back a couple of seasons to one of these memorable games; when a certain Fernando Torres scored his first goal for Chelsea.
Chelsea 3-0 West Ham United
Stamford Bridge, London
23rd April, 2011
Everyone loves a derby game. They love it even more when there are side-stories and acrimonious undercurrents to it. On a dripping April evening, Chelsea and West Ham lined up on the pitch at Stamford Bridge. The tone was set straight away, with John Terry and Wayne Bridge ignoring each other magnificently during the pre-match handshake, continuing the long-standing feud. The presence of Avram Grant, one of the not so popular former managers for Chelsea, in the opposition dug-out did not help matters much either. Fernando Torres started on the bench.
Despite Chelsea’s obvious superiority, most of the first half chances came from the visitors. West Ham fashioned two respectable chances at goal, only to be thwarted by Petr Cech in goal. Then Chelsea scored in the 44th minute. Frank Lampard absolutely buried his shot in West Ham’s net, latching on to the ball in a fantastic move started by Didier Drogba. West Ham fans have never really stopped giving Lampard the stick for his move to Chelsea, and the Englishman gave one back to them by turning and celebrating in front of the opposition contingent in the Shed End.
The second half saw greater sense of urgency from both ends. West Ham continued to fashion and miss chances, while Chelsea also came close to extending their lead on a couple of occasions. Then in the 76th minute, around the time when the incessant rain seemed to have stopped, Ancelotti decided to bring on Torres in place of Drogba. Almost 12 weeks at his new club, Torres hadn’t managed to score a single goal for Chelsea in 903 minutes. The butt of countless jokes, Torres cut a forlorn and hesitant figure on the pitch as he replaced the big Ivorian.
However, very soon, Torres was running through opposition, almost setting up Anelka for Chelsea’s second. It was to be his night, and not Anelka’s. The moment of redemption arrived in the 84th minute. A hopeful punt up the field from Cech landed in Anelka’s path and the Frenchman deftly put Torres through in between two defenders. But the rainfall had created puddles on the pitch and for a moment, the ball seemed to get stuck in one of these as Torres ran across. It looked as if even the heavens were against the man and football community had their task cut out in how to best frame this misfortune as a good joke.
Torres must have decided, ‘not tonight’. Showing a flash of his old self, the Spaniard turned sharply and lashed his left-footed effort past the goalkeeper. Pandemonium broke out in the stands. The players leaped on in joy. Ancelotti and the coaching staff pumped their fists. Chelsea supporters would have you believe that the roar following the goal could be heard as far as Tottenham. Decidedly, Torres was the happiest of the lot, the monkey off his back. He celebrated in his trademark style, and Stamford Bridge duly applauded and celebrated.
In the dying embers of the game, Malouda capped it off with a third goal, Torres claiming the assist for it. After the incessant rains, at last it was a fine evening in West London.