Cole on target

Chelsea's winning goal came from Cudicini's punt, flicks from Didier Drogba and Kalou and a sprint, swerve and accurate finish from Cole. Dominic Fifield reports.

The world will have to wait to witness the fabled new-look Chelsea, designed to be free-flowing in possession and scintillating on the attack, though the players have at least seen evidence of another side to Avram Grant. They were floundering as they left the field at the interval at Stamford Bridge, only for a furious reaction from the usually mild-mannered Israeli to shake them out of their lethargy and propel them, for now, into second place in the table.

This was a victory straight out of the Jose Mourinho era, chiselled from West Ham's resistance, the decisive goal stemming from a goalkeeper's punt. It was not beautiful but it was ruthlessly effective. Grant even insisted, maybe cheekily ? though definitely provocatively, that the visitors had "played very, very physically" and "deserved more yellow cards than they got." His predecessor would have been proud of such mischief-making.

Mourinho might also have admired the half-time dressing down which apparently stung the home side into this contest. "We got a bit of a telling off," said Joe Cole. "The manager told us at half-time we weren't good enough, we weren't sharp enough. We'd found it difficult to get into second gear in the first half. We were shouted at but came through in the end. That's the sign of a good team."

Inspiring the desired reaction is also an indication of a canny manager. Everything about Grant suggests he mumbles more than he rants. He comes over as a studious instructor, his monotone matching his monochrome garb. Any shouting is usually left to his assistant, Henk ten Cate. Perhaps it takes a derby this combustible to bring out the emotion in the Israeli, the game having degenerated into a scrap with Chelsea enraged by a flurry of early tackles and then fortunate to retain their full complement after some spiteful challenges of their own.

Mikel John Obi might have been dismissed for an ugly lunge at Scott Parker. Salomon Kalou flung an arm at Lucas Neill and was fortunate to escape after clattering into Luis Boa Morte, though sympathy for the Portuguese should be measured given his own kick at Carlo Cudicini. Even so, West Ham were perplexed by Grant's claim that they were overly physical. "That's Avram Grant," said Alan Curbishley. "He's got his own opinion. He's been put in a position where he's got a big, big club on his hands. So perhaps he feels he has to make some big, big statements."

Grant seemed happier when Chelsea were sneaking out of upper mid-table, before their unbeaten run stretched to 14 games in all competitions.

Whether Grant has instigated a real change in Chelsea's approach, however, is dubious. He stated here that "nobody gave us a chance of being one of the teams to finish at the top after what happened at the beginning of the season" but Arsenal's advantage stood at five points when Mourinho was bundled out of Stamford Bridge in September. That gap remains today.

This was a fine result but far from a swashbuckling display. Admittedly West Ham did not allow Chelsea to play, snapping into challenges and almost scoring through Nolberto Solano's first-half chip. Yet just as they invariably did under Mourinho, Chelsea eventually squeezed a moment of quality from the huff and puff, though even that conjured flashbacks to the old regime. Grant had suggested recently that this team had been too reliant on the counter-attack under his predecessor. The winner came from Cudicini's punt, flicks from Didier Drogba and Kalou and a sprint, swerve and accurate finish from Cole.

"The big thing since Avram took over is that John Terry's come back, Frank Lampard's come back, Drogba's on fire," said Curbishley. "I don't know if they were all there when Jose had them. (Grant has) come in and done what Gary Megson's done (at Bolton). He's just said: �Get on with it. You're all good players.' I don't think he's changed too much. Perhaps the pressure's been lifted a little bit but they're going to be there or thereabouts. They know that. We know that."

So too will Arsenal. The old Chelsea had proven pedigree at this level. If the victories are maintained, Grant's mood should improve.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007