Following Chelsea’s Champions League elimination earlier this week, the Blues bounced back by netting three times in under 25 first-half minutes to beat West Bromwich Albion 3-1. Peter Odemwingie had opened the scoring for the Baggies on their home turf, but subsequent strikes from Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Frank Lampard sealed the points for Chelsea to boost what appears to be a moribund title challenge.
Carlo Ancelotti recalled Drogba to the starting line-up in place of Fernando Torres, while Kalou and John Obi Mikel were also given rare starts considering the Italian manager’s recent way of thinking.
Despite the agony of the midweek defeat against Manchester United, Chelsea started brightly, bar a few shaky moments early on. Florent Malouda, Drogba and Kalou all wasted chances spectacularly, with the ball finding its way into the crowd rather than on target in the most part.
Opportunities materialised at the other end with Youssouf Mulumbu also sending a shot over the bar following some clever work by James Morrison, and the latter was also involved as West Brom took the lead.
Some intricate – and slightly fortunate – passing between Morrison and Jerome Thomas saw Odemwingie played clean through on goal. The pacy forward advanced into the box and finished sublimely, dinking the ball over Petr Cech.
A goal like that could have seen Chelsea’s already low-confidence dip even further, but a bullish Drogba – reportedly offered around by the club to anybody who is interested as his contract nears its expiration – was afforded a starting place for a reason, and he soon repaid his manager’s decision.
Chelsea were busy on the left-flank for the entire half, and a little under five minutes after they went behind, Malouda sent a low cross across the West Brom box which should have been cut out by Baggies’ ‘keeper Scott Carson. He dived despairingly and missed the ball, which was then prodded out of immediate danger by left-back Nicky Shorey. However, his woeful clearance only found Drogba, six yards out and grateful to receive such a gilt-edged chance. He smashed it, as Richard Keys may have said, for the equaliser.
A few minutes later and again Carson was at fault. Drogba shot from range and the beleaguered stopper could only divert the ball into the path of Kalou, inexplicably unmarked and with time to control, who slid home Chelsea’s second.
Carson did manage to save face a little with a flamboyant save from a Lampard free-kick which was well-struck, but the next time the midfielder tested the West Brom defence, it was well and truly game over.
Just before the break, again Chelsea made progress down the left-hand side, with a counter-attack kick-started by Drogba freeing Malouda for a clear run down the flank. His cut-back found Lampard rampaging into the area, who took the sting out of the cross and fired home, low into the corner, with two quick touches.
With the score 3-1 at half-time, a more relaxed away side emerged for the second 45, and although the earlier intensity was understandably missing, there were still chances for Kalou, Malouda and Drogba to further Chelsea’s lead. Blues fans were even witnesses to that very rarest of occasions, with Lampard substituted to give the box-to-box midfielder a breather; he was replaced by Yossi Benayoun.
Torres also made it onto the pitch, replacing Drogba in the final ten minutes, but his barren spell continued as he was denied a goal by the linesman, who ruled a successful effort by the Spaniard offside.
He got the ball in the back of the net at least, but for now, thank goodness for Drogba.