Chelsea close to perfection
(John Terry 31, Diego Costa 62)
WEST HAM 0
In a team sport, perfection is rare.
There are too many moving parts and too many imponderables to achieve a complete team performance.
Chelsea pretty much pulled off the feat last night.
The Premier League season may yet be blessed with more eye-catching contests and certainly greater scorelines, but Stamford Bridge delivered a flawless present for the purist.
The Blues battered a team in the top four like an over-eager daddy kicking a new ball around with his toddler on Boxing Day.
They displayed no weaknesses, anywhere on the pitch.
Stamford Bridge saw a systematic, clinical destruction, the football equivalent of a merciless vet putting down a devoted, but dying, shaggy dog.
Barring a calamitous collapse, the title belongs to Chelsea. English football belongs to Chelsea. And international domination is a distinct possibility if Jose Mourinho finally curbs his career-long restlessness at football clubs.
He has created a squad of muscular magicians, a unique combination of Arnold Schwarzenegger testosterone and David Blaine trickery.
They either take the breath away or knock the wind out of opponents. Either way, they win.
At times, watching Premier League games can feel like a penance rather than a pleasure, particularly during the festive season when a flood of fixtures throws up upsets and farces.
At Stamford Bridge, the audience was privileged to witness a devastating demonstration of intimidating football. That's what the Blues are now producing.
They do not merely inspire. They intimidate.
They certainly terrified Sam Allardyce.
His line-up presented all the menace of a three-legged kitten, handing the initiative to Mourinho's band of bulldogs who needed little incentive to attack.
Andy Carroll hadn't been this isolated since he spent months alone in the treatment room as Allardyce's 4-3-3 succeeded only in stretching his side, which granted Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic the freedom of central midfield.
West Ham essentially played with four fullbacks, with Enner Valencia and Stewart Downing often doubling up in defence.
And still, Chelsea's voracious freaks of nature could neither be stopped nor tamed.
The Roadrunner couldn't catch them. Mourinho's men make Duracell bunnies seem positively sedate.
With or without the ball, they never stop running.
Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian twisted and shouted, demanding possession and dancing past dizzy defenders.
Hazard, in particular, poked away at West Ham with all the gleeful, giddy enthusiasm of a turkey who's survived Christmas. He gobbled up space leaving the hapless Hammers well and truly plucked.
The opening goal's only surprising feature was its delay, with Chelsea taking a full 31 minutes to take the lead.
Hazard's mesmerising, one-touch artistry earned a corner. Diego Costa lost James Collins in the air and John Terry lost everyone to tap in the striker's knockdown from close range.
It was the skipper's second goal in five days.
Two years ago, Terry had been written off and stamped with a sell-by date.
Under Mourinho, he's a born-again man mountain, carved in granite and almost impossible to topple.
West Ham were no less resolute at the back, throwing bodies across our screens like an episode of the Walking Dead, which kept them alive until just over the hour mark.
But Mourinho's magicians are irrepressible, irresistible. You can't take your eyes off them.
In a series of blurry movements, Hazard dispossessed Cheikhou Kouyate and released Costa.
The Spaniard took a touch and then twisted his body so violently to cut inside Collins, he left the defender tackling himself.
Costa exuded class. Collins resembled a cartoon character.
With West Ham's wide-eyed defenders playing musical statues among themselves, Costa smacked a low shot into the corner.
Mourinho wasted no time in rolling out the substitutions, allowing the visitors back into the game slightly.
Hammers' substitute Morgan Amalfitano struck a post near the end, but the damage was already done.
Much of Chelsea's performance was close to perfection. And yet, they can probably play better still.
Their Premier League rivals are playing for second place.
BY THE numbers
6 Chelsea have won six EPL matches this season by 2-0 margins, including each of their last three games.
7 Diego Costa has scored in seven of eight EPL appearances at Stamford Bridge.
66 Cesc Fabregas made 66 passes in the first half against West Ham, 62 more than Stewart Downing.
BLOW BY BLOW
31 GOAL! Cesc Fabregas' corner is headed powerfully goalwards by Diego Costa and John Terry sidefoots it in from close range.
34 Goalkeeper Adrian comes to West Ham's rescue with a fingertip save to keep out a 25-metre shot from Nemanja Matic.
62 GOAL! Eden Hazard plays the ball into the path of Costa, who leaves three defenders in his wake, before burying it.
65 Alex Song fouls Oscar who takes the resulting free-kick which is superbly tipped over by Adrian.
66 Terry meets Fabregas' corner kick and heads goalwards but Matic is unable to bundle the ball in from close range.
85 West Ham substitute Morgan Amalfitano finds space in the box but his low shot strikes the bottom of the Chelsea post before it is cleared.