John Sullivan RIP: A sad day for anyone who sat cross-legged in front of the television during the 1970s and 1980s, as one of the finest sitcom scriptwriters in the history of com dies. So this has got nothing to do with football? So sue me!
None of the characters in Sullivan's work appear to have supported either of the teams playing tonight. Wolfie Smith, eponymous star of Sullivan's first hit, Citizen Smith, was a Fulham fan. Del Boy and Rodney, meanwhile, were Charlton Athletic supporters. No idea who Penny Warrender from Just Good Friends cheered on. Vince looked like he might have been a Chelsea fan, though. Yes, he could easily have been a Chelsea fan.
It was written by Ronnie Hazlehurst, incidentally, subject of the only other Memorial Minute-By-Minute in the history of the Guardian. Big fan of Ronnie's, but not sure the 1970s-style light entertainment segue into the episode works so well here. Probably for the best that it was replaced by Sullivan's own themes (which have, on the DVDs, airbrushed Hazelhurst's first-series theme totally out of the picture, a Stalinist revision that's not really on, but now's probably not the time). Anyway, all together now: God bless Hooky Street...
Anyway, in lieu of a solemn hymn, here's a blast of the original theme to Only Fools and Horses:
Anyway, the football. Chelsea need to win, to retain a slim hope of winning the title. West Ham need to win, every point vital in their relegation battle. And poor Fernando Torres, dreaming of 2008, really needs a goal. This could be a cracker.
Team news: Fernando Torres is on the bench again. Oh Fernando! West Ham meanwhile will be missing Matthew Upson, out with a chest infection, joining Footballer of the Year Scott Parker on the sidelines. Full line-ups coming your way soon.
While we're waiting for the teams, time to address more serious issues. "Rodney wasn't a Charlton fan, his Mum was," insists Owen Worth, with reference to the fact that Charlton was also the character's middle name. "He used to support Chelsea. There are many references to this in a number of episodes. Also I doubt Vince would have fitted in with the Shed End in the 1980s." I take your point. Though Stamford Bridge has always been a broad church. I was looking at young Mr Pinner as a kind of prototype Tim Lovejoy.
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry, Cole, Essien, Mikel, Lampard, Kalou, Drogba, Malouda.
Subs: Turnbull, Torres, Benayoun, Zhirkov, Ferreira, Bertrand, Anelka.
West Ham United: Green, Jacobsen, Gabbidon, da Costa, Bridge, Spector, Noble, Hitzlsperger, Sears, Cole, Ba.
Subs: Boffin, Tomkins, Boa Morte, Kovac, Piquionne, Obinna, Keane.
Referee: Phil Dowd (Staffordshire)
Carlo's brave face: In his pre-match interview, Ancelotti kids on that Manchester United's late winner against Everton didn't deflate his playes. Right, aye. "I never really got John Sullivan's work, but Balham/Tooting can ill-afford to lose its celebrities," writes Gary Naylor. "Just Jimmy White, Paul Merton and Darren Bent left flying the flag now. And would it be poor taste to suggest a Robin Reliant as a hearse?" Not at all. Presumably the coffin gets crammed in the back with a load of boxes of knock-off "stock", and is accidentally sold by Del en route to the service in a classic switcheroo. It's what he would have wanted.
And we're off! It is tipping down at Stamford Bridge. The rain hasn't dampened Wayne Bridge's hot funk with John Terry; the full back again refuses Terry's hand in the pre-match exchanges, avoiding eye contact to boot. West Ham get the ball rolling. "I remember the 80s and I am sure we had chairs back then at least," writes David1. Yuppie show-off.
2 min: An immediate chance for Chelsea. Drogba flicks the ball down the middle. Malouda nips past the sleeping Da Costa and is clear on goal, but instead of lifting the ball over the advancing Green, he hammers it straight at the goalie. What a chance! Torres would have scored that.
5 min: West Ham can't get hold of the ball at all. Essien dinks a high ball down the inside-left channel. Cole should have got on the end of it, but pulled out of a challenge with Green pelting straight towards him. "I think Carlo himself may have been studying the buying skills of Del Boy a bit too closely," begins David Flynn, before slipping into character. "Come on bruv, how was I meant to know Fernando's head was all over the place and he had the touch of a three-legged mule? Scouse Kenny told me he'd come good and 50million seemed like a bargain at the time. Anyway, cheer up Rodski, this time next year you'll still be a billionaire."
7 min: Hitzlsperger is booked for upending Malouda. It's not a terrible challenge in itself, but he's already been whistled for a couple of niggly fouls, and the referee appears to have a short temper today.
9 min: It is lashing down at Stamford Bridge. The ground appears to have its own microecosystem; everywhere around it is bathed in sunshine! "In the 1984 Christmas special of Just Good Friends, Vince mentions being an Arsenal man while talking to either Lennie or Les," recalls Deepak, perhaps too readily, some would say. Not me, though. This is as close as we get to culture on the Guardian sports desk.
11 min: A shot on the turn from the edge of the area by Drogba. It's heading into the bottom-right corner, but there's no pace on the ball and Green can snaffle with ease. "Penny from Just Good Friends grew up in Chipping Ongar if I recall correctly," writes Mo Holkar, "so West Ham would have been her nearest team of any stature. Not sure if the footy would have really been her game, though: I see her more as a hockey girl."
13 min: Cole takes a wild swipe at the ball in the area. Then Malouda has a go. Then Drogba. Then the ball's cleared. A right old mêlée, in other words. The ball hits a West Ham hand when Malouda takes a shot, but from point-blank distance that would have been as harsh a penalty award as they come.
15 min: This is all Chelsea. Think of West Ham as Everton at Old Trafford, only with less ambition. Yes, believe it or not, that is possible.
16 min: So here's half a chance for West Ham, as they earn a free kick 35 yards out, on the left. But with the box loaded, Noble hoicks it straight into Cech's arms.
18 min: Malouda runs onto a long ball down the left. He cuts inside, drops a shoulder past two players, and romps into the box, before dragging a dreadful low effort well wide left.
20 min: Lovely triangles by Chelsea straight down the middle of the field. Eventually Kalou exchanges dinks with Drogba and is released into the box down the inside-right channel, but the ball takes a flyer off the greasy turf and into the arms of Green. For a microsecond there, Kalou was clear.
23 min: Quite a lot of aimless passing going on at the moment. Let's be kind and blame the conditions.
25 min: Finally, some action up front for West Ham. Ba picks the ball up 30 yards from goal on the left, and hammers an immediate rising shot goalwards. Cech is forced to palm the powerful effort over the bar. A decent whack, albeit straight at the keeper. The corner is a waste of time. "Vince was played by Paul Nicholas (who looked a lot like his namesake, Chelsea midfielder Peter Nicholas)," writes Gary Naylor. "Paul (not Peter - obviously) was in the original cast of Hair. Earlier this week, I was in the audience for Joseph and the amazing technicolor dreamcoat at Wimbledon when the cast left the stage to dance in the aisles, very close to where I was sitting. They did that in Hair too, but at least in Joseph, the lads' hip thrusts and wiggling were executed when fully clothed."
26 min: West Ham have woken up. Sears tears down the left, outstripping Cole and sending a cross to the far post, where Spector stoops low to head towards the bottom-right corner. Cech is on hand to knock the ball round the post. A lovely sweeping move. The resulting corner, not so good.
28 min: Da Costa makes what is possibly the worst clearance in the history of All Football. He takes a wild swipe at the ball, but only manages to dribble a pathetic effort a foot in front of him to Kalou, who immediately feeds Drogba to the right of the box. The striker lashes a stupendously useless shot miles over the bar. Where's Fernando?
29 min: Ivanovic is booked for a slide on Ba. There's not much in the challenge, to be honest. Maybe a wee bit of mouth after the event.
31 min: A West Ham corner on the left. The ball flies over all the big lads and is sent flying goalwards by an improvised twist and backheel by Sears. The effort's too close to Cech, though, and saved without too much fuss. After a slow start, West Ham are right in this game now.
33 min: A bit of thunder and lightning in West London now.
35 min: Cutting inside from the right, Ivanovic is under a ball looping over the West Ham back line. He hits a first-time volley that flies straight out for a throw on the other side. Just as West Ham have improved, so Chelsea are getting slowly worse after a bright start.
37 min: Drogba tries to buy a free kick just outside the West Ham area by flipping himself over the back of Noble. The referee is, quite rightly, having none of it, and Ba tears up the other end, his shot from the inside-left channel spooning up off Terry and forcing Cech to carry it over the byline. They sling a couple of corners into the box, but cause little in the way of serious trouble. "Looking around the first few rows at the Bridge, I feel like I am being asked to judge the worst 'wet t-shirt' competition in history," shudders Craig Smaaskjaer. "Come on lads, lay off the cheeseburgers: Bad for both your health and ours."
40 min: Ba is causing bother. He scoots into Chelsea territory again, and slips a ball out left to Cole, who was free in acres. Sadly for West Ham, the ball pushes Cole out wide and the chance for a shot is gone. If Ba's pass was well weighted, that could have been the opening goal. "Can I point out to Gary Naylor and your good self that there is no such car as a Robin Reliant?" honks Tom Shaw. "It is a Reliant Robin, and it has nothing to do with Only Fools and horses anyway because Del Boy drove a Reliant REGAL. How do I know? Don't ask."
42 min: With Cole chasing a long ball in the Chelsea area, Cech comes out to punch clear. He gets the ball, but also his team-mate Luiz, knocking him out cold for a minute or so. The big defender is quickly roused and back up on his feet, happy to say.
44 min: GOAL!!! Chelsea 1-0 West Ham United. Chelsea have been poor for the last half hour, but suddenly they wake up just like Luiz did a couple of minutes earlier. Drogba slides a pass down the inside-left channel behind the West Ham back line. Cole scoots clear and pulls a low ball into the centre, where Lampard sidefoots home with violence. As crisp a finish as you'll get.
45 min: Some of the floodlights have failed at Stamford Bridge, as well as some of the lights in the stand concourses. Some good news, though: the animated advertising board around the pitch is also jiggered.
HALF TIME: Chelsea 1-0 West Ham United. And that's it for the half. West Ham were the better team for the majority of that, but Lampard's strike has eased some of the tension around Stamford Bridge. Where half the health-and-safety lights are still out, but the animated advertising board is already back on. God bless the priorities of capitalism!
And we're off again! It's still pelting down. Also some thunder and lightning. All the lights are back on, though. That's great news, what with this being 2011. "Only Fools and Horses might have been set in South London," begins Steven Hughes, "but I get reminded of it every time I use my season ticket as the programme was filmed down in Bristol, near to City's Ashton Gate or even in its car park. I'd always look in the background, when the programme showed the market stalls, as I could sometimes just make out the back of the Wedlock Stand as the camera came down from a crane shot while Nelson Mandela House itself was, and is, just behind the ground's Dolman Stand."
46 min: Drogba sends a clever ball through the West Ham box, right to left diagonally, but nobody in blue is there to whack it home. Green lets it bounce out to the left of goal. There is quite a lot of standing water on the pitch after a half-time deluge. The ball is holding up in a few patches, albeit only slightly.
49 min: Malouda drops a shoulder down the left and stands one up in the middle, but Bridge is on hand to head clear with Kalou knocking around. Down the other end, Ba and Cole get in each other's way as the former enters the Chelsea box with he ball at his feet.
52 min: Da Costa meets a right-wing West Ham corner with a powerful header, forcing Mikel to clear a couple of yards from the line. West Ham are not giving this up by any stretch.
54 min: The ball is holding up in quite a few places here. It's far from critical at the moment, but if the rain keeps pelting down like this, the referee will have a decision to make.
56 min: Essien stretches for a ball and goes down immediately, clutching his knee. He limps off, to be replaced by Yossi Benayoun.
59 min: Now Noble goes down. The physio comes on, followed soon by the stretcher bearers. He'll not finish the match. Keane comes on in his stead.
60 min: Drogba takes a free kick from 35 yards out on the right. He sends the ball trunding down the corridor of uncertainty, across the face of goal behind the West Ham back line and in front of Green, but the onrushing Terry can't connect, despite getting into position and shaping to sidefoot home. That should have been Chelsea's second.
62 min: Drogba sends an almost identical ball into the box, only from open play this time. And instead of Terry failing to make decent contact, this time it's Lampard who fluffs his sidefoot. That should have been Chelsea's second, or their third, depending on whether we're totting up.
64 min: Chelsea have raised their game here. Lampard takes a lash at goal, Green only able to parry back out. Malouda picks up the rebound, skitters past a couple of lame West Ham defensive challenges, and having done all the hard work hoicks a dreadful effort into the side netting from close range. That should have been Chelsea's second, or their fourth under the totting-up procedure (but not their third, which is obviously now out of the equation).
68 min: West Ham aren't doing anything upfield any more. A couple of corners for Chelsea, followed by a throw-in or two. Then Luiz picks up the ball 30 yards out, cuts inside from the left, aims for the top-right corner, and twangs it off the crossbar.
70 min: West Ham, awoken by the slap-bass funk of Luiz's shot, go up the other end and nearly score. First Ba, then Hitzlsperger, then Keane take pops from distance. Hitzlsperger's is charged down, but the other two warm Cech's hands. Despite that spurt of Chelsea domination, this is not over.
71 min: Anelka replaces Kalou.
72 min: Carlton Cole, standing on the penalty spot, latches onto a low cross from the right. Instead of taking a first-time shot, he decides to spin round and round like a teenager who has just knocked back five cans of Special Brew, before falling over. Why on earth he started fannying around with the intricate ballet moves I'll never know; that was a superb chance to score the equaliser.
74 min: Now it's West Ham's turn to spurn chance after chance. Spector rolls a tasty pass from the inside-right channel into the centre for Keane, who meets it on the edge of the box and attempts to sidefoot into the top-right corner. That should be West Ham's first, unless you're using the totting-up procedure, and so forth, and so on.
76 min: Drogba is replaced by Fernando Torres, who enters the field to muted cheers. He's got the best part of quarter an hour to register his first goal for Chelsea. Let's see how this develops, then.
78 min: A free kick for West Ham, 30 yards out on the left, after some Ivanovic clumsiness. Da Costa meets the set piece at the far post, but can only head over. That was played out to almost total silence, with little reaction from either set of fans. Very strange, because it was a decent chance.
80 min: Torres races after a ball down the inside-right channel. He can't get it under control, but does enough to slide across the wet turf and scoop a brilliant pass out left to Anelka, in miles of space. Anelka shoots for goal, and must surely score, but Gabbidon races in from nowhere to head the goalbound effort clear. Wonderful play all round.
81 min: Ba is booked for a late slide on Luiz.
82 min: Sears is replaced by Obinna. That's the last West Ham change, because a couple of minutes ago, I forgot to mention that Piquionne came on in Cole's stead.
83 min: AT LAST, FERNANDO TORRES SCORES FOR CHELSEA!!! Chelsea 2-0 West Ham United. A ball straight down the middle from Anelka. Torres clear into the box. He must score. He shifts it right - and the ball holds up in some standing water! It looks like he's been robbed in the cruellest circumstances, but he simply - brilliantly - checks back, turns and hits an unstoppable effort into the top-left corner. There's that music-hall joke over, then. Much like when Chelsea finally won the cup in 1970.
85 min: In celebration, Torres slid across the greasy turf on his knees, relief across his face rather than any scream of justification. The roof came off Stamford Bridge when that went in.
88 min: West Ham had chances in this game, and now their spirit is sapped. This is over. "Glad for Torres," writes Ian Copestake. "But did he kiss the badge?" He's too old and cynical for that sort of carry-on, Ian.
90 min: There will be four added minutes of this. We've all only got a finite number of minutes, it seems like such a waste.
90 mins +3: GOAL!!! Chelsea 3-0 West Ham United. Torres tries a one-two with Anelka, who misses the ball. It rolls on to Malouda, who rasps a majestic drive into the top-left from the edge of the area. Fernando's luck has turned to such an extent that he's now setting up goals by accident.
FULL TIME: Chelsea 3, Fernando Torres 1, West Ham United 0. That's that, then. After the day's play, Chelsea remain six points behind leaders Manchester United. And West Ham, who didn't deserve to be on the end of a three-goal tonking, are bottom of the table. But really, it's all about Fernando Torres. The news of his goal was tickering on Sky Sports News within seconds of him scoring, such was its, er, importance. He goes off the pitch with a grin as wide as London, the hero of the hour. At this rate, they'll soon be selling tracksuits of him in Shepherd's Bush.