Chelsea charge stalls in West Ham draw
Jose Mourinho was left frustrated as Chelsea missed out on the chance to go second in the Premier League after being held to a goalless draw by struggling West Ham at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Arsenal's failure to beat Southampton on Tuesday had opened the door for Mourinho's team to move above their title rivals.
But they were unable to find a way through against a determined West Ham and remain third, three points behind new leaders Manchester City and two points adrift of Arsenal.
West Ham, meanwhile, remain in the bottom three, one point off the foot of the table.
Chelsea's disappointment in this all-London clash was summed up in added time when Demba Ba diverted Eden Hazard's cross against the post moments before West Ham goalkeeper Adrian saved well from Frank Lampard.
And the outcome appeared to justify Chelsea manager Mourinho's pre-match claim that the Blues will have to wait until next season before making a sustained bid to be champions.
The Portuguese boss had insisted before kick-off he would not allow his focus to drift towards Chelsea's next fixture, a daunting trip to Manchester City.
Certainly, a strong Chelsea line-up confirmed he was taking no chances, despite facing a West Ham side that had lost seven of their last nine games, shipping goals alarmingly along the way.
The opening stages suggested this game would deliver the routine home victory the form book suggested.
An early West Ham corner proved a momentary threat as Chelsea camped out in the visitors' half and laid siege to the Hammers' goal.
Oscar threatened to continue where he had left off against Stoke, when he settled the weekend FA Cup fourth round tie with an outstanding free-kick.
This time the Brazilian threatened in open play, collecting a crossfield ball from Willian before sending a curling, dipping shot beyond Adrian, only to be denied by the crossbar.
The visitors struggled to piece together an attacking move of note although James Tomkins did force a reaction save from Petr Cech when he rose to connect with Stewart Downing's free-kick.
But Chelsea otherwise assumed complete control and West Ham's cause wasn't helped when midfielder Mohamed Diame went off in the 29th minute after injuring himself falling over the pitchside barrier and into the crowd.
Yet, as dominant as Chelsea were, they found it increasingly difficult to find a way to test Adrian.
Ramires struck a powerful rising drive from the edge of the area that only just cleared the bar but the hosts' failure to produce more attempts on goal allowed West Ham to settle, with Chelsea's performance reminiscent of their more frustrating displays earlier this season.
With the playmaking trio of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard failing to click as effectively as they have done, Chelsea's attacking efforts grew more frantic.
Chelsea picked up the tempo after the restart but Ramires' sliced volley from just eight yards out summed up their efforts on goal.
And they were given a reminder of how precarious their position was when Andy Carroll missed an excellent chance to give the Hammers a shock lead on the hour.
Downing broke free on the left, keeping his feet as he brushed aside a challenge from Gary Cahill before clipping a cross towards Carroll who completely mishit an attempted volley when a clean strike would almost certainly have beaten Cech.
Mourinho's annoyance was apparent and the Chelsea manager immediately introduced Hammers 'old boy' Frank Lampard and Nemanja Matic.
But West Ham's determined resistance was summed up by the way three defenders charged out to block a Lampard shot shortly after the England midfielder had come on.