I’m sure like many Albion fans before kick off I was dreading facing Chelsea. Having watched Jose Mourinho’s men easily despatch Manchester City on Monday Night Football a few weeks back, I couldn’t see how Albion could get anything after such a disappointing performance days ago against Palace.
Having made the decision to walk to the ground to avoid the traffic, I bumped into Coseleybaggiebird. She didn’t fill me with much confidence either after recalling her trip to Selhurst Park on Saturday.
Baggies boss Pepe Mel made four changes to the side which lost to Palace with Thievy making his full debut and Morgan Amalfitano, Saido Berahino and Steven Reid also recalled.
Unsurprisingly, it was Chelsea who had an early grip on the game. Like most sides this season, the opposition attacked Ridgewell. Oscar and Eto’o linked up first with Gareth McAuley having to be at his best to sweep the ball away from Ramires at the back post.
Chelsea almost took the lead in the 20th minute from a similar type cross. Eto’o fired across goal from the left and Claudio Yacob bundled the ball away only yards from the goal line.
Albion’s first chance began down the right. Amalfitano did well to beat his man before curling a deep cross towards Berahino. The youngster headed down for Thievy, but his first touch took him away from goal. He managed to set up Brunt but the captain’s drive was well wide.
Thievy was working hard and linked well with Berahino – who also brought others into the game on occasions when isolated up front. But the most significant involvement of the debutant was clattering Ramires from a corner. Needless to say, the Brazilian rolled on the ground meaning two minutes of injury time were added.
In added time, Willian curled across a corner, David Luiz escaped Brunt and flicked the ball towards Branislav Ivanovic unmarked at the far post. The defender swept his volley home from close range.
Despite a battling 45 minutes, Albion found themselves behind after one lapse in concentration.
After the break
Chelsea again started the half brighter and Eto’o tested Foster with a drive from the edge of the area. Foster made a similar save on the hour mark when he did well to change direction and beat away Willian’s long-range drive.
Minutes later, Claudio Yacob limped off for Youssouf Mulumbu and the game slowly started to swing in Albion’s favour.
Albion’s first chance of the half came from a corner. Brunt fired towards the back post but Gareth McAuley could only head into the turf and away from goal.
Morrison had Albion’s next effort when he turned in the area but could only fire his attempt over the crossbar. Albion came closer from the next attack. Chelsea failed to clear a Brunt corner and the ball fell to Thievy. But his powerful volley was deflected away for another corner.
Anichebe came on for the ineffective Amalfitano with Mel changing his formation slightly to a 4-3-3.
Albion were suddenly on top with Chelsea on the ropes. Opposition players were suddenly falling to the turf in an attempt to waste time and take the sting out of the game.
Brunt had Albion’s next chance. Anichebe flicked the ball to the unmarked winger but his first time volley went well wide.
But Albion finally scored the goal they deserved in the 87th minute. Berahino did well down the left and fired in a curling cross. Anichebe beat Luiz to the ball and his glancing header went in off the post. From the top of the Birmingham Road, it seemed to take an age to go in.
Brunt had Albion’s last chance of the game when his left foot prod sailed over the crossbar. Chelsea pushed for a winner in the sixth minute of added time, but Foster rose highest to claim the cross and the whistle was blown. The England stopper then chased Torres to the touchline with the Spaniard looking rather sheepish.
Albion deserved their point against Chelsea. In fact, it’s the second time this season that we’ve played Mourinho’s men and should’ve taken all three points. Mel’s men matched Chelsea for the first 60 minutes but were then well on top as the game wore on.
Anichebe again did well from the bench. He’s Albion’s super sub at the moment and seems more comfortable coming off the bench to batter tired defenders.
The Baggies defended much better as a team. Foster had more saves to make than Cech, but as a team we were much more compact. We MUST continue to play like this for the rest of the season if we are to avoid relegation.
Mel seems to have found a system for playing at home. He now needs to replicate this away from The Hawthorns to help us climb up the league.
The point moved Albion out of the bottom three and sent home Baggies fans happy with the performance.
COME ON YOU BAGGIES!