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Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Chelsea 2-0 West Brom

By Ollie Williams

Didier Drogba (left)
Drogba's early header set the tone for an easy Chelsea win

First-half goals from Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard temporarily moved Chelsea to the top of the Premier League table as they comfortably beat West Brom.

Drogba's looping header after three minutes, his first league goal of the season, set up a dominant performance.

Albion fought hard until Lampard's close-range finish in first-half stoppage time killed them off.

West Brom had a little more of the game after the break but Chelsea were able to cruise to victory.

The win keeps Chelsea in touch with Liverpool, who knocked Luiz Felipe Scolari's side back off the top with victory over Bolton in the later kick-off.

Scolari chose to pair Premier League top scorer Nicolas Anelka with Drogba up front, and the decision paid immediate dividends.

Drogba met Joe Cole's swirling cross from the right and delivered a well-placed header past the helpless Scott Carson.

West Brom were barely in the game in the first half as Chelsea engineered time and space on both flanks, with Albion striker Craig Beattie alone and frustrated up front for the visitors.

But the home side sometimes struggled to convert their possession into shots on goal, Lampard the chief culprit as a succession of chances lacked the telling finish.

Lampard appreciates return of Drogba

Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech dealt comfortably with Albion's few opportunities, Do-Heon Kim's bundled half-chance their only first-half strike of note.

Ashley Cole forced Carson into a superb double save, first tipping Cole's lethal left-footed strike on to the post, then pouncing on the rebound.

And West Brom's back line soon suffered another blow as centre-half Abdoulaye Meite pulled up and was forced off while chasing down Lampard.

It was Lampard who crushed the visitors' resistance as they tried to hold on for half time.

Chelsea's last attack of the half found Lampard surging on to a loose ball in the Albion area.

Mowbray accepts 'gap in class'

He negotiated the flailing leg of Paul Robinson with precision footwork before finishing from a matter of yards.

Early in the second half, Ballack combined with Anelka to create an opportunity for a third, Anelka threading the ball through for Lampard, who failed to weight his chip well enough to clear Carson.

West Brom slowly inched forward as the second half wore on, earning enough possession to threaten the Chelsea goal.

But Chris Brunt's wildly optimistic 30-yard drive into the crowd summed up Albion's frustration at their lack of clear-cut opportunities.

Each attack for the visitors left Chelsea space to exploit on the break, and Drogba should have done better when he blazed wide having had time to steady himself.

Moments later Drogba again found himself with time and space, only to be denied by Carson from close range, with Robinson getting a foot in front of the rebound.

That marked Drogba's last contribution of the game in his first Premier League start since September, Scolari replacing the 30-year-old with Florent Malouda.

Robinson saw his late strike blocked by the flying body of Alex as West Brom tried to steal a goal from their rare forays into the Chelsea half.

But the remainder of the second half dissolved into a tame victory parade for the home side, and Anelka's low, rasping strike into the body of Carson proved the last touch of the game.

Chelsea assistant first-team coach Ray Wilkins:
"The early goal is important in any game, it settles the nerves down, and we played some very good football today.

"I thought West Brom came to have a game of football and they played well, but our movement up front was very good with Anelka, Drogba and Joe Cole. We were always going to create chances.

"If any team in the Premier League loses a player of Didier Drogba's quality, they will have a problem. It's great to have the big fella back, he brings so many people into the game."

West Brom manager Tony Mowbray:
"The gap in class was there to see. We worked hard enough and tried to frustrate them, but we lacked the quality to give them any real problems.

"The longer it stayed at 1-0, they could have got very edgy, but at 2-0 they were able to play within themselves.

"It's not coming to Stamford Bridge that decides whether we stay up or not, it's games at home against teams in the bottom half of the table."

Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa (Belletti 46), Ivanovic, Alex, Ashley Cole, Ballack, Mikel, Lampard, Joe Cole (Deco 79), Drogba (Malouda 66), Anelka.
Subs Not Used: Ferreira, Kalou, Cudicini, Mineiro.

Booked: Ballack.

Goals: Drogba 3, Lampard 45.

West Brom: Carson, Zuiverloon, Meite (Barnett 27), Olsson, Robinson, Morrison, Koren, Greening, Kim (Bednar 69), Brunt, Beattie (Moore 60).
Subs Not Used: Kiely, Cech, Dorrans, Borja Valero.

Att: 43,417.

Ref: Rob Styles (Hampshire).

BBC Sport Player Rater man of the match: Chelsea's Frank Lampard on 8.11 (on 90 minutes).

Please note that you can still give the players marks out of 10 on BBC Sport's Player Rater after the match has finished.

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see also
Premier League as it happened
26 Dec 08 |  Premier League
Boxing Day football photos
26 Dec 08 |  Football

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