Chelsea’s relentless charge continues against West Brom
Blues extend unbeaten run to 12 with goals from Costa and Hazard at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea Diego Costa (left) misses an opportunity to score against West Brom Stamford Bridge. Photograph: Peter Powell / EPA
Chelsea 2 West Bromwich Albion 0
Chelsea’s title charge shows no signs of abating, with West Brom the latest side swatted away by Jose Mourinho’s men. It may only be November but few look capable of preventing the west Londoners from lifting the Premier League trophy aloft at the end of the season.
It was their sixth straight league win this season at Stamford Bridge — which was far more atmospheric than the last outing against QPR — and a result saw the Blues start a top-flight campaign unbeaten in 12 for the first time.
It did not take long for Costa to open the scoring here, with the striker, now fully-fit after various niggles, impressively notching his 11th goal in just 10 league matches after offside calls were ignored.
Hazard extended the Blues’ lead soon after with a fizzing strike which took a slight deflection as it beat the otherwise excellent Ben Foster, whose goal always looked likely to breached further when Claudio Yacob was given a straight red card.
The Argentinian midfielder’s reckless 29th-minute challenge on Costa forced Albion into damage limitation mode and impressively they pulled it off, preventing Chelsea from causing any more damage.
It was one-way traffic from the outset and Mourinho’s side would have taken the lead inside five minutes was it not for Foster impressively preventing John Terry from turning home a low Hazard cross.
The league leaders would not have to wait long to make the breakthrough, though. Neat team play saw Oscar float the ball to unmarked Costa, who impressively controlled with his chest and struck a right-footed volley past Foster.
There were shades of offside about the Spaniard’s latest goal but it stood nonetheless as the hosts’ dominance continued, with Foster doing well to smother Costa after saving Oscar’s initial effort. Hazard was, as always, proving a nuisance, wriggling free only to see his shot blocked by Andre Wisdom, before Gary Cahill struck wide and Costa stabbed an early Branislav Ivanovic cross just wide.
The second goal looked inevitable and so it proved, arriving in the 25th minute. Oscar played an intelligent short corner to Hazard, with the Belgian jinking free before unleashing a fizzing strike that snuck past Foster via a slight deflection off Craig Gardner.
As if being 2-0 down to the league leaders was not tough enough, the Baggies were reduced to 10 men just before the half-hour mark. Yacob, making his first league start of the campaign, launched into a heavy, two-footed challenge on Costa just outside the box. The Argentine got the ball but referee Lee Mason deemed the challenge reckless and dished out a straight red card to the perplexed midfielder.
Oscar wasted the free-kick which followed but Chelsea continued to press, with an exquisite Cesc Fabregas pass looking set to give Chelsea a third, only for the move to end when Cesar Azpilicueta was thwarted by Graham Dorrans.
Nemanja Matic had a low strike from distance and Foster did well to deny Hazard as half-time approached, while Oscar and Ivanovic had penalty appeals rejected as the onslaught continued.
Half-time will have no doubt been a welcome respite to Alan Irvine’s side, who continued on the back foot when play resumed. Matic volleyed over from close range having all too easily got behind the West Brom defence minutes after the restart, with Foster producing another fine save to deny Terry — a chance which would not have counted anyway as the Chelsea captain had been flagged for a foul.
West Brom were now sitting back and soaking up pressure, with the hosts dominating possession but struggling to recreate their first-half fluidity.
Hazard was denied by the outrushing Foster when put through by Fabregas as the home side continued to hunt out another goal. Costa, shortly after being caught by Craig Dawson, was replaced by Didier Drogba for the closing stages, yet even his introduction, along with that of Loic Remy and Ramires, was unable to help Chelsea grab what have been a deserved third.