Lampard saves sloppy Blues

CARLO ANCELOTTI admitted his Chelsea side were feeling the pressure of a hectic winter schedule after being held by London rivals West Ham in a tale of two penalties.

Alessandro Diamanti’s spot-kick on the stroke of half-time gave the Hammers a deserved lead before Frank Lampard rescued the Blues with a thrice-taken penalty after Matthew Upson was wrongly-adjudged to have brought down Daniel Sturridge.

But while the draw extends Chelsea’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points, boss Ancelotti was left to reflect on a lacklustre display with the Blues now having won just once in
their last six matches.

Chelsea now face a tough trip to Birmingham on Boxing Day followed by a home clash with west London rivals Fulham two days later, and Ancelotti admits the pressure is already starting to tell.

“We didn’t play a good match,” the Italian admitted. “We met a strong, hard team. It was a tough game. It is not easy to play every three days. It is not easy to prepare. Now we have one week to prepare for the next game and we will improve.

“But we have four points more than anybody in the league and we can have a good Christmas.”

But while Ancelotti was cursing his side’s display, his former player at Parma, Gianfranco Zola, was delighted with the attitude of his gutsy Hammers side.

“I am happy because the attitude, the passion and the courage of my players was remarkable. It was a good starting point and it will affect everyone from now on,” said Zola, whose side remain second from bottom in the table. “They were tired but they didn’t look like it. They could have played another 90 minutes.”

The Blues did come closest to the opener but Branislav Ivanovic’s header was hacked off the line by Scott Parker.

But West Ham’s endeavour was rewarded in first half stoppage time when Jack Collison was brought down by Ashley Cole in the box and Diamanti sent Petr Cech the wrong way with the penalty.

Didier Drogba almost pulled the Blues level with a dipping shot which just flew wide, but on 61 minutes Chelsea got the break they needed when half-time substitute Sturridge went to ground after a lunging tackle from Upson, prompting referee Mike Dean to point to the spot when replays suggested the tackle was legitimate.

Lampard was forced to take the penalty three times by Dean due to encroachment, but netted each time to eventually bring Chelsea level.

West Ham, however, battled on bravely with Diamanti forcing a save from Cech, but Zola will be encouraged with the point nevertheless.

Ancelotti, meanwhile, has also defended captain John Terry, who was accused by a Sunday newspaper of accepting cash in exchange for a tour of the club’s Cobham training ground facility.

“This is not correct,” Ancelotti said. “This is not true. The club, me, the players, have a lot of confidence in John Terry and John Terry did nothing wrong.”