West Ham played fairly well but with Eden Hazard and Juan Mata impossible to pick up, they might feel relieved not to have lost by more
So, Chelsea go above Spurs into third place - they're now a point ahead of Spurs with a game in hand and four behind City. They really oughtn't to make a mess of Champions League qualification from here, and look pretty well-set for the cups too.
West Ham can actually be fairly satisfied with how they played, in the main. Carroll's forehead wasn't quite there, but the delivery to it was reasonable, they fought hard, and avoided a thrashing. They drop a place in the table, to fourteenth, but will be confident of locating the six or so more points they need to stay up.
Anyway, thanks for all your emails and sorry I couldn't use them all. Bye.
Mata and Hazard. That's pretty much all you need to know.
90+3 min Arouna Kone has just nabbed WIgan a last-minute likely-winner against Newcastle.
90+3 min There shall be three added minutes.
89 min West Ham win a corner on the left and it's hit directly to Carroll. He reaches it first again, but can only head over the top when really he ought to be hitting the target. Perhaps he needs a customised Adidas Predator headband.
89 min Azpilicueta flies down the right and cuts another back for Lampard, hurrying onto it but again shooting inaccurately. But Chelsea stick at it, Hazard scorching in from the left and lacing a shot into the ground that Jaaskelainen did well to forearm away.
88 min If I was a Manchester United supporter, I'd be wondering whether losing the quarter-final reply might be the best way of ensuring that Manchester City don't win the Cup.
86 Lampard spoons a classic Lampard sweeping finish, and looks suitably aghast.
85 min The impishly wonderful Mata leaves, third in the huggable stakes behind only Rafael and Fabio and Mikel arrives.
84 min Probably the closest West Ham have come to scoring - Jarvis slings over a cross and Cole extends a leg, toeing a poke that has Cech scrambling to his right.
83 min Carlton Cole does some can't control. In a villa by Lake Como, Franco Baresi trembles.
80 min Carlton Cole is with us, and no one would want to play against him and Carroll, Tony Gale reckons. That's expertise. Vaz Te is off, incidentally - and that really could be the dictionary definition of the word.
79 min Ba's yips continue, played in behind Reid by Mata and striding towards goal. But unwilling to take his shot early, he takes an extra touch that moves him slightly away from goal, which is enough opportunity for Reid to nicks the ball away.
78 min Luiz has strained a curl, so departs. John Terry comes on.
76 min There is some serious artistry in this Chelsea team, and they bamboozle the right hand side of West Ham's defence with some rapid passing, until Mata plays in Hazard. He coils his right foot and in the time it takes to unleash, O'Neill dives in the way to make an excellent block.
75 min Kaiser Luiz weaves in and out of two or three challenges on the left corner of his box, until Demel loses patience, bundling him to the floor and feeling very much better about life.
73 min O'Neill wastes a free-kick and Chelsea break, Mata laying the ball in front of Hazard, who nips along the touchline and sashays past the blowing O'Neill. Demel decides he's best pulled down, pulls him down, and takes the yellow card. The free-kick is wasted.
71 min Mata and his loveable little face scoots around Reid and motors away, so Reid drags him down and takes the yellow card. Lampard address the free-kick, 35 yards out and right of centre, but the kick kicks off the wall and goes through to Jaaskelainen.
70 min Oscar comes on for Moses.
69 min The game has slowed down significantly now, and that might help West Ham. They build down their left, and suddenly Collison finds a pass for O'Neill, breaking into the box. With no support and the ball already on his right foot, he jabs a chip that's close enough to Cech for him to snatch.
68 min Collison and Tomkins - who, it transpires, came on for Collins - knock the ball backwards and forwards a few times, before the inevitable cross is caught by Cech.
66 min Lampard rakes a raker for Hazard, now menacing on the left, and he dashes down the outside of Demel with the least apparent effort, before botching his cross.
65 min After that little flurrylet, Chelsea are back controlling possession, West Ham running around and all that, but not much more. Though then O'Neill nutmegs Ashley Cole, before Demel loses the ball.
63 min For hundreds of years, philosophers have debated whether time can be lost, created or manipulated. Had they ever had to change streams when following football matches, they would have saved themselves the bother.
58 min But these have been a good few minutes for West Ham, Jarvis escaping Azpilicueta and slinging over a cross to the far post, where Carroll outjumps Luiz and heads wide.
56 min Carroll charges through Cahill, who melts like the Wicked Witch of the West, and thunders a left-footer just past the near post. If West Ham could spare him some proper support, there might be a goal or two to be had, but more likely, this'd wind up being a thorough hammering.
54 min Chelsea almost score a third, and really should have scored a third. Ba holds the ball up until Mata draws alongside him, and he bursts onto it with chest plumped, dashing past three men loitering without intent. Now one-on-one, it looks for all the world like another goal, but he clips his finish into Jaaskelainen's body.
53 min Collison nabs a pocket of space and curls a right-footer towards Cech's top corner, but it's not quite venomous enough and the keeper grabs it.
Intercourse underworld, this is a sumptuous slice of skill. Hazard, again on his right flank, exchanges passes with Mata - and the return is a minor masterpiece of the genre, lofted over O'Brien for him to run onto. He elects to cut inside, running across the face of the box, before drilling a left-foooted finish back across Jaaskelainen once he's decided that it's the appropriate measure and moment.
He's got that vibe.
49 min Hazard conjures his way through a phalanx of defenders midway inside the West Ham half and on the right, the high point a cruel, callous nutmeg of O'Neill. Though he's eventually crowded out, it hardly matters - what a stupidly good player he is.
47 min My screen is now herking and jerking like Keith Jardine - those of you familiar with him will know that this is not a great look. It returns in time for Tony Gale to neologise the noun an "act-up", with regard to Azpilicueta's behaviour.
46 min It's Diame - and given that he hadn't (yet) been booked, you'd have to think he's injured.
46 min Ch-ch-change for West Ham - Taylor is on, and when old Taphoose is good enough to let me know who for, I'll pass that right on. But I think it's Diame.
Is Ashley Cole...no, not a parlour game, but a question. Is Ashley Cole the greatest British ftbllr of his generation?
Elsewhere: Fulham have won 1-0 at Spurs. The fascinating Battle for Fourth PlaceTM is fascinating.
Wigan lead Newcastle 1-0 at half-time in a game they really must win, ad there's also been some argy-bargy, handbags and a set-to. That's really the kind of thing that no one likes to see.
Chelsea deserve to be ahead here, and would be further so had Demba Ba not forgotten how to finish. But West Ham have shown enough to make it clear that they're still in this. They could do with getting tighter to Hazard and Mata, but I'm not exactly replete with suggestions as to how one accomplishes that.
46+2 min James Collins thunders a free-kick into touch, achieving half-time.
45 min There shall be two additional minutes.
45 min Hazard, who is some serious nick at the moment, wins a corner that is cleared, finding Jarvis. With no help forthcoming - fair enough, who likes helping? - he's forced back for West Ham to keep possession. But they also keep patient, and eventually work the ball to Vaz Te, just outside the box and just left of centre. He lashes an effort at goal, but drags it slightly, and Cech can enjoy watching it scoot wide.
41 min My picture vanishes as West Ham break, led by Diame, I'm told, and when he apparently fails to find Carroll, Chelsea break. Moses, dancing along the edge of the box, locates a gap amongst the legs, and pokes a pass through for Ba, in the inside-left position. He opens his body, eyes up keeper and goal, and elects to go across both, side-footing towards the far corner. But he's telegraphed his intention, and a leg is enough to accomplish an excellent save.
39 min A cross from the left is improperly cleared, and drops onto Luiz's left foot, on the edge of the box. He springs his whole body into a volley that flies just wide, with Jaaskelainen hoping again.
38 min Juan Mata is alright, isn't he? Luiz zips a pass into Cole and dashes outside him, taking a flicked return and squaring to Hazard, who moved the ball on one more - to Mata. With no one near him, he drove an effort wide of the near post with his body in curious hunched position that Jaaskelainen could only watch sail just wide.
36 min West Ham are under sustained pressure for the first time in the game, Lampard spreading a delicious pass wide for Azpilicueta. He has a look and sees Moses, cutting back a low cross - but it's slightly behind his man, who has to retreat a couple of yards, take a touch, and then rush his shot, which outswings just wide of the far post.
34 min Hazard, now appearing on the left, feeds a pass into Ba that he can't quite control, Reid's attentions sending the ball straight back to him. Hazard pounces and drives a low shot, but it's not got the pace or the curl to beat Jaaskelainen, who gathers easily enough.
30 min Claus Stroander has a challenge: "I have reluctantly joined those who dislike Benitez more than they like him, for 1 simple reason: no useful anagram can be made with the initials of the surnames in his team selection."
Ready, steady, Neil Warnock!
28 min Diame bursts through a challenge, and as soon as it's clear that he's overrun the ball, he over-commits to the next one and drills his studs into Ramires' metatarsus. The game stops, and we see footage of Terry warming up directly in front of the away support, which apparently it was essential Howard Webb stop. All are saved.
28 min Lampard, just outside the box on the left, takes crash ball, but before he can be crowded out, Diame checks him from behind and cedes a free-kick. Luiz and Lampard debate, before the former sidefoots a tame but well-directed shot that Jaaskelainen tips around the post. He then catches the corner, and sets West Ham off again.
26 min Jarvis steps inside off the left and curls a right-footer at Carroll's head. He rises like a grouper, Luiz hardly bothering to compete, and flicks only just wide of the far post.
24 min More chocolate with Julian Gough: "Toblerones used to be small, and could be found everywhere, like sparrows. But now they are enormous, and found only in a single, specialised niche (airport duty free). That's evolution for you. But this particular strategy worked out badly for the dodo and the moa. I fear for the future of the Toblerone. Indeed, global warming could do for all holiday-only chocolates."
I'd not noticed the sparrow situation - I shall now look out for their absence.
22 min West Ham are raging, with some justification. A cross from the right initiates a tussle between Luiz and Carroll, Carroll ragdolling his man, but probably fairly, before taking the ball down on his chest and driving a low shot past Cech. A twitch into his celebration, the whistle signalled a purported infringement, then shouting and glaring was done.
I'd say that this is a classic Lampard goal, but if i did, you'd not know whether I was referring to a late arrival sweeper, a pinball deflection or a thumping swerver - which you'd expect from someone with 200 goals for one club.
Anyway, Hazard ambled in in the inside-right position without molestation,then sprang his body into a shot that Jaaskelainen beat away as far as Ramires - outside the box on that same right side. He squared back to Hazard, who espied Lampard alone inside the box, with everyone but Demel having scarpered. Digging out a chip that looped directly to his head, there was still plenty for Lampard to do - he had to generate all the power himself - but he did so expertly.
18 min What is the limit of behaviour that can acceptably be exchanged for footballing excellence?
15 min As Benitez scribbles his memoir, the Toblerone debate rages. "I am loath to disagree with Jonathan Finchboard," says Jack Coleman. "Not about the quality of a Toblerone, but about its availability as I'm sure Alan does as well. You can even buy them in Dundee!"
Gary Cahill has managed to do to himself a mischief, and it looks as though John Terry might replace him - he's certainly warming himself in menacing fashion.
13 min Hazard scampers away down the right and crosses to the near post, but Reid is alert to divert the ball behind before Ba can donk wide. The corner itself is no use, but when it's returned from the opposite flank, Collins houchens a header that he's relieved to see go straight at Jaaskelainen.
12 min Toblerone latest, with Geoff Ashworth: "I once bought a 1lb. bar of Toblerone in Paris Airport. I bet you couldn't take it on a plane today 'cos it looks too much like a lethal weapon. Anyway, I scoffed the lot on a 23,000 feet peak in the Himalayas some weeks later. I was still hungry."
He's been on holiday!
10 min Carroll holds the ball up until Collison arrives, hunks of body aggravating Luiz, and eventually winning a corner. O'Neill slings it over from the right, but it's cleared and Chelsea break through Hazard and Mata, before they're crowded out. Then West ham break! ! And Ramires pulls down Jarvis, narrowly escaping a brandished yellow.
8 min A West Ham cross is headed away, but only as far as Collins, hanging around just outside the box. He flourishes his deadly right foot at a volley, but directs his shot over the bar.
7 min Demba Ba is saying Demba bah! Ramires rolls a square ball to Lampard inside the centre-circle, and following a quick look, he hits a long, straight ball behind the dithering Collins for Ba. One-on-one with Jaaskelainen and with the keeper advancing, he attempts a dink and instead donks one past the right-hand post.
4 min First email of the day, and it's a thought-provoker. "Is Toblerone bought anywhere other than at the airport?" wonders Jonathan Finchboard. "An awesome chocolate bar but only bought at airports, not sure why."
Awesome is a little strong - it's not quite bales of fire-filled hail or splitting Red Seas.
Meanwhile intricate passing from Chelsea down the right, and Mata somehow lifts his toes into the ball while inclining his body forward, wedging a pass between Reid and Collins for which Ba stretches - but it's just a little to far ahead of him.
2 min West Ham win a free-kick - for why, I cannot say, due to paused taphouse - but my picture recovered in time for me to see Vaz Te lamp a shot somewhere into the stratus and cirrus.
1 min I err! It's Gary Taphouse. Is that a building in which lots of nauseating dancing takes place, a home full of taps or a home made of taps? Mata finds Hazard along the right touchline, he crosses, and Reid deals.
1 min Chelsea get us underway, and my commentator is called Gary Tapout.
The players are out. We shall soon have kick-off.
"What a great Saint Patty's Day!" exhort my commentary team. "Maybe you're kicking it in the Crown & Anchor!" Who isn't?
BREAKING NEWS: Chelsea's Swiss supporters' club presents Petr Cech with its player of the year award. For this he receives a bar of Toblerone, but not a Flik Flak watch. Pah.
A vaguely peculiar aspect of selection: old Jonno Terrence played against Steaua, when you might have expected that given his purported inability to play twice in a few days, he'd have been saved for this afternoon's all-in wrestling. Expect to see Andy Carroll charging hither and thither in the lumbering lighthouse role.
So, Chelsea make four changes from midweek - out go Terry, Mikel, Oscar and matchwinner Torres, to be replaced, by Cahill, Lampard, Moses and Ba. That seems reasonable enough to me - they've so many games that not everyone can play in them all and will reckon this as one they can win without their strongest eleven.
West Ham make two changes - Vaz Te comes in for the injured Cole, and Collison takes the place of Taylor.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Moses, Mata, Hazard; Ba.
Subs: Turnbull, Ivanovic, Terry, Bertrand, Mikel, Oscar, Torres.
West Ham United (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen; Demel, Reid, Collins, O'Brien; O'Neil, Diame, Collison, Jarvis; Vaz Te, Carroll.
Subs: Spiegel, McCartney, Pogatetz, Tomkins, Taylor, C.Cole, Chamakh.
Maniac chopped sideboards: Michael Oliver (Northumberland)
Preamble In mechanics, momentum is the product of an object's mass and velocity, apparently. But in life, it's all a little bit different, variously the product of apparent chance, a perfectly-timed toilet visit, well-aimed state-altering or simply being a different person.
Nor is its nature all that obvious in sport, particularly those of the team variety. It turns up, it leaves, it hints and it evaporates, frequently without warning or expectation.
Less than a month ago, Chelsea were momentum skint. The manager was complaining, the fans were complaining and the players were marking time. Then, out of nowhere, they improved against West Brom, fought back at Old Trafford and ultimately outclassed Steaua, and suddenly there it was, as though there's nothing more to it than finally arranging a squad's best players into a team.
West Ham, on the other hand, are still desperately seeking. They're longest winning sequence of games is one, they've lost to Reading, Villa, Wigan and Sunderland, and though they managed a victory last time out, their following fixture was postponed because of the Cup. Lying twelfth in the table, they've only three points more than Villa in seventeenth, so will be ganting on scrounging a result here, because if they do, they can can off the search and spent the rest of the season locating the far less well camouflaged and far more user-friendly inertia.