Kalou boosts Chelsea

2009-04-25 18:42

Andrew Fifield

London - Salomon Kalou ensured Chelsea will travel to Barcelona for next week's Champions League semi-final in buoyant mood after sealing their 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday.

The Ivory Coast international made the most of a rare start under Guus Hiddink by plundering the only goal of a scrappy game early in the second half.

He turned in Frank Lampard's cross from close range, and victory was assured when Petr Cech saved Mark Noble's 70th-minute penalty.

Three points have little relevance to Chelsea on the domestic front, their English Premier League title ambitions having died against Everton last Wednesday, but it will pep their confidence ahead of the daunting encounter with Barca.

Indeed, the Dutch interim manager might consider the fact that his squad departed east London without any major injury scares as his most satisfying achievement, although he had done his best to minimise the risks.

Not needed

As expected, Jose Bosingwa was deployed as a makeshift left-back to ready him for the Nou Camp, where first choice Ashley Cole will be suspended, although whether containing the limp Luis Boa Morte will prepare him for confronting Lionel Messi is another matter.

Hiddink will be pleased that Michael Essien and Michael Ballack were only employed briefly as second-half substitutes, while Didier Drogba and Alex were not needed at all.

Chelsea's satisfaction was in stark contrast to West Ham, for whom defeat represented a grievous blow to their hopes of sealing the seventh-placed finish which should guarantee Europa League football next season. With Fulham and Tottenham, their major rivals, in ominous form, Gianfranco Zola's side must rebuild their confidence quickly.

Zola will have been dismayed at his team's paltry effort here against a Chelsea side which, perhaps inevitably given the changes, never threatened to reach top gear.

The first half was dismal and, aside from a long-range effort from Lampard and a low shot Nicolas Anelka pulled just wide of the left-hand post, West Ham goalkeeper Robert Green was largely reduced to sun-bathing duties.