Chelsea 2 West Bromwich Albion 2
Eden Hazard rescued a point for Chelsea with a penalty deep in injury time to keep José Mourinho’s home league record intact and move the Blues to within four points of Arsenal. The hosts had taken the lead at the end of the first half through Samuel Eto’o before the Baggies hit back on a frustrating afternoon for Mourinho’s side.
There were just two changes to the side which defeated Schalke so comfortably in midweek, with Frank Lampard and Hazard back in for John Mikel Obi and Andre Schurrle. There was a minute silence before kick-off on the day before Remembrance Sunday to remember those who have lost their lives in the service of their country.
After-kick off it took a little while for things to get going, with both teams starting pretty sluggishly. There were pot-shots at goal from Oscar, Eto’o and Baggies midfielder Brunt but nothing that was seriously going to threaten either Petr Cech or visiting keeper Myhill.
Chelsea were struggling to take the game by the scruff of the neck, and their best chance came from a set-piece on the half hour. Hazard was tripped by Yacob, who was booked, and Oscar fired a cracking free-kick at goal which Myhill did well to tip over.
After that effort however, it was back to the pretty turgid play that had marked out the rest of the half. Chelsea were poor in possession and the visitors were content to let them keep pressing, happy enough with keeping the scores level as half-time beckoned.
Then, with just a minute until the break, the hosts broke the deadlock as the Baggies lost their concentration at a crucial point. Hazard had a dig from distance which Myhill got down to and saved fairly easily. But when the loose ball rolled to Ridgewell, the defender dallied and Eto’o pounced and lashed the ball into the net to put his side in front.
It was the perfect time to score and Chelsea went in at half-time with a narrow advantage but they hadn’t played anywhere near the level required to win a Premier League game and so there was still much to be done.
Had Hazard managed to control a wonderful through ball from Oscar seconds after the re-start it might have been curtains for West Brom but instead, it ran free and Myhill gathered. Hazard would still have had work to do but it was a let off of sorts for the visitors. They responded fifteen minutes later with an equaliser, although not before Long hit the post with a header from an Amalfitano cross.
It was in the air that Chelsea were eventually caught out soon after when McAuley rose highest at a corner and forced Cech into a save. Unfortunately for Chelsea, his parry sent the ball straight into the air and Long showed more hunger and got there before John Terry or Gary Cahill to head home.
Mourinho instantly responded by bringing on Demba Ba for Lampard in search of a second goal but it was West Brom who were next on the score-sheet as they silenced Stamford Bridge. There was undoubtedly a foul in the build up when Branislav Ivanovic was bundled over but referee Marriner refused to give it and the visitors broke away and found Sessegnon, who fired past a wrong-footed Cech to make it 2-1.
Suddenly, Chelsea were staring at two straight defeats and Mourinho gambled further, bringing on Juan Mata and John Mike Obi for Cesar Azpilicueta and Oscar.
Chelsea finally began to assert some authority on the game and Ivanovic forced a good stop from Myhill when he smashed an effort at him from in side the box. Willian then really should have equalised when a cross found him in the centre of the box. He rose higher than Ridgewell but headed over the bar. Ba then had a chance to level things up but Cahill’s cross went just past him as he struggled to make contact.
Mourinho was by this stage staring down the barrel at a first ever home league defeat at Chelsea and Brunt should have sealed the deal when he broke towards goal. Inexplicably he fired over when he had teammates better placed and allowed Chelsea one more chance. When the ball fell to Ramires inside the box, West Brom’s Reid made contact and sent him to ground and Marriner pointed to the spot.
Hazard was forced to wait an age before taking the spot-kick but he kept his composure brilliantly and sent Myhill the wrong way. The international break arrived in what was hardly the best fashion, but Chelsea are a point closer to the top than they were last week and, perhaps more importantly, remain unbeaten at home this season.
Chelsea; Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta (Mikel 72), Ramires, Lampard (Ba 64), Willian, Oscar(Mata 72), Hazard, Eto’o
Unused subs; Schwarzer, Cole, David Luiz, De Bruyne
Scorers; Eto’o 45, Hazard (pen) 90+5
Referee; A Marriner