Last-gasp West Brom equaliser leaves Chelsea frustrated
Late strike from relegation-threatened side frustrates Mourinho’s title ambitions
Victor Anichebe heads his side’s equaliaser past Petr Cech at The Hawthorns. Photograph: aurence Griffiths/Getty Images
West Brom 1 Chelsea 1
For Chelsea, it finished as a night of regret. For long spells it had felt like a classic demonstration of the qualities that have taken them to the summit of the Premier League but their opponents deserve credit for the way they came back in the last quarter of an hour, culminating in an 87th-minute equaliser for Victor Anichebe.
Anichebe had come on as substitute a quarter of an hour earlier for Morgan Amalfitano and his header was West Brom’s reward for their adventure just at the point of the match when Chelsea were looking strong for another hard-earned win and a four-point lead over Arsenal.
Jose Mourinho’s team had an off night and, once again, the manager must wonder where his team could be if they had a more charismatic centre forward. Yet it was not until the last quarter of an hour that Pepe Mel’s side attacked with any real conviction, desperately trying to retrieve the damage caused by Branislav Ivanovic’s goal late in the first half.
Mel is still looking for his first win after five games in the job and West Brom have still won only once since Steve Clarke was removed as manager but this ultimately was a night of great satisfaction for a club enduring a wretched recent run. For Chelsea, it felt like two points dropped, paying the price for their late carelessness.
Perhaps the most encouraging part for Chelsea was the latest evidence that Willian is now fully acclimatised to English football. The Brazilian showed the combination of flair and industry that makes him an ideal Mourinho player. He was prominently involved from the start, playing with the high energy that his manager wants from his front players. On this evidence, he is going to take an influential role in the run-in.
It was also his corner that led to Ivanovic’s goal and another demonstration of the defender’s ability to trouble opponents at the other end of the pitch. David Luiz applied the first touch, helping the ball across the six-yard area and Ivanovic was next to react at the far post, sweeping in his shot first-time.
The goal had felt like a jolt because Chelsea had threatened only sporadically until that point. The leaders had plenty of the ball in the first half but showed a lack of penetration in the telling areas. Willian flashed a couple of long-range efforts narrowly over the crossbar but there were only flashes of Eden Hazard’s recent excellence and Samuel Eto’o, at the spearhead of their attack, was largely peripheral.
At 0-0, the outstanding chance actually dropped to Thievy Bifouma, making his first Premier League start for West Brom since arriving on loan from Espanyol. Saido Berahino’s header was cushioned expertly into Bifouma’s path, after Morgan Amalfitano had eluded Cesar Azpilicueta on the right, but the 21-year-old debutant did not appear to have the self-belief to take on the volley. Trying to control it in a congested penalty area gave Chelsea’s defenders the time to recover and the chance was gone.
A team in West Brom’s position cannot be that generous and that let-off seemed to be the signal for Mourinho’s players to shake their heads clear and take more control of the ball. Nemanja Maticshowed why Mourinho had wanted to bring him back to the club.
Shortly before the goal, Chelsea also had legitimate claims for a penalty after Liam Ridgewell knocked Gary Cahill to the floor.
Tight Chelsea defence
West Brom had handled their opponents with more ease in that period than might have been expected for a side on such a poor run. Their problem after the goal was getting past the most parsimonious defence in the league and, though Berahino was lively, the home side simply did not have the ingenuity to get behind their opponents consistently.
For a club in West Brom’s position, with only one win in 16 games, the challenge was considerable. But then the recovery started and Anichebe’s header was placed beyond Cech.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Foster, Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell, Morrison, Yacob (Mulumbu 63), Brunt, Amalfitano (Anichebe 73), Thievy (Vydra 78), Berahino. Subs not used: Myhill, Lugano, Dorrans, Gera. Booked: Amalfitano, Yacob, Anichebe.
CHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta, Ramires (Salah 89), Matic, Willian, Oscar (Mikel 79), Hazard, Eto’o (Torres 69). Subs not used: Cole, Lampard, Schurrle, Schwarzer. Booked: Willian, Ivanovic, Luiz, Matic.
Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire).
Attendance: 24, 327.