Chelsea went into the match at the top of the table with the opportunity to stretch their lead to four points with both Arsenal and City in action on the Wednesday. It looked a likely prospect with the host’s poor form of late meaning that they started the evening in the relegation zone and without a league win since Pepe Mel’s arrival. Despite their defeat at relegation rivals Palace, Albion have been picking up useful draws at home to the likes of Liverpool and Everton. In both of those matches they had to come from behind too.
In terms of the line-up’s, Ramires in for Lampard was the only change from Newcastle and West Brom benched Anichebe and Gera for the more counter attacking Berahino and Bifouma. The contest took its time to get going. The opening stages saw Chelsea with 65% possession and began pressing high up the pitch with Eto’o looking to latch onto any lapse of concentration. The home sides forward line looked to battle and hold on to the ball for the midfield to support. Whilst Albion were comfortable on the ball, any time three or four passes were put together usually saw the ball slowly making its way back to McAuley, Ridgewell and Foster. As a defensive unit, West Brom nullified the visitors effectively. Chelsea looked to Hazard, he put moves together that regularly resulted in long distance efforts that were blocked. Chelsea’s goal at the end of stoppage time in the first half was the first attempt on target of the match by either side. Willian’s low corner was curby flicked by David Luiz and smashed home by Ivanovic.
Chelsea produced their best chances of the match during the first period of the second half. Unsurprisingly this is when Hazard was at his most effective. West Brom were not so deep, so Chelsea got in behind and should have punished the hosts. An incisive breakaway had Chelsea four on three only for the Belgian to delay his cross. The winger managed to keep the move alive, shift it to Torres, he scrambled it to Willian who shot straight down Foster’s throat. One or two other occasions saw Willian opt for power over placement as well. One other instance, Hazard slipped Eto’o in to test Foster at a tight angle. To around the seventy minute mark, West Brom’s one or two sights of goal had been half chances at best, usually as a result of clearances from a set piece. There is no doubt about it, Mel’s substitutions changed the game because as soon as his final two were made, there was only one side in it. Anichebe and Vydra entered the fray and suddenly Chelsea obviously missed Terry. West Brom had won the large majority of the first ball’s from set play’s but Anichebe meant West Brom started to have joy with the second ball too. Luiz was booked for tugging the Nigerian’s shirt after a clever turn. Chelsea were rattled as Ivanovic lost his cool and joined the growing list of cautions. Eventually a smart Berahino cross left Cech in no man’s land and Anichebe’s glancing header went in at the back post. It was deserved and the six minutes added on seemed to give Albion more of a lift. Chelsea could not hold on to possession after Eto’o was subbed and a couple of breakaways from the powerful Anichebe had Chelsea scrambling.
The Blues miss the chance to take control at the top and could see themselves in third by the end of Wednesday. It is another huge point for West Brom in their bid for survival.