Somebody call Scotland Yard! Because yesterday at around 4.50pm there was a robbery at Stamford Bridge.
Andre Marriner’s decision to award Chelsea a 94th minute penalty robbed Albion of three richly deserved points.
Second half goals from Shane Long – his first of the season – and Stephane Sessegnon looked to have earned Albion their first win on Chelsea soil for the first time in 30-odd years.
But Ramires late tumble and Marriner’s decision to award a penalty denied Steve Clarke a famous return to Stamford Bridge.
Clarke made two changes to the side which beat Crystal Palace – Claudio Yacob came in for James Morrison and Steven Reid was given his first start of the season at right back.
The game was the first time that Clarke had faced his former mentor as a manager. The Scot got his tactics spot on – please excuse the pun, or should that be pen?
Anyway, the Baggies were organised and reslilent. Yacob and Mulumbu offered excellent protection to the back four and Brunt and Amalfitano worked hard to protect their full back.
This meant Chelsea, although with the majority of the possession, failed to create any real chances as Albion settled into the game.
It looked like Albion would go into the break all square. However, Boaz Myhill’s excellent save from Eden Hazard should’ve been cleared by Liam Ridgewell. But the defender dallied on the ball allowing Samuel Eto’o to poke home. It was a terrible error by the defender. At this level, the left-back should be comfortable clearing the ball with both feet.
Albion, unfortunately, trailed at the break 1-0.
The Baggies didn’t play well in the first half but came out after the break with more belief.
Sessegnon found more of the ball and was able to link up the play between the isolated Shane Long and Albion’s midfield.
Albion’s playmaker found Amalfitano on the right, who sent over an inviting cross for Shane Long. The Irishman did excellent to out-jump Gary Cahill, but his header came back off the post with Petr Cech beaten.
The chance gave Albion renewed hope. The Baggies were pressing forward for an equaliser. They got one on the hour mark.
Gareth McAuley headed goalwards from a corner, producing a fine save from Cech. But as the ball looped high into the air, Shane Long rose highest at the back post to nod head his first goal of the season – and Albion’s equaliser.
The goal was what Albion deserved for their performance after the break. But Albion weren’t finished. Yacob robbed Ivanovic, allowing Albion to counter attack. Ridgewell broke forward and found Sessegnon. The forward jinked passed John Terry and fired passed Cech to give Albion the lead.
With Albion now 2-1 up, it was Chelsea who applied the pressure. Reid, Olsson, McAuley and Ridgewell managed everything the hosts through at them. Yacob and Mulumbu excellent in front of them breaking up play at will.
Chelsea failed to create any clear-cut chances as the minutes ticked down. Steve Clarke replaced the excellent but tiring Long with Anichebe. Morrison and Popov were also sent on to add fresh legs.
With only seconds remaining, Popov played a major part in Chelsea’s equaliser. Anichebe forced Cech into a hurried clearance. The ball spun towards the touchline midway in Chelsea’s half. But Popov, instead of letting the ball go out of play, tried a speculative shot which gifted the ball back to the ‘keeper. With 30 seconds left, the defender should’ve taken the sting out of the game and let the ball go into the stand to kill time.
Instead, the ball was sent up field and fed into the area into the path of the on-rushing Ramires. Steven Reid covered his run by found the Brazilian falling into him. Amazingly, referee Marrier awarded penalty! Reid had made no sort of challenge, yet had been punshied. Hazard stroked the penalty home following mass protests from Albion’s players.
Albion’s second half performance deserved to end Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record. But Marrier’s shocking decision took the gloss off Albion’s win and the draw feels like a defeat.
We should be celebrating another famous away win this season. But, not for the first time this season, we’re bemoaning another penalty decision which has gone against us. Clarke rightly pointed out that we’ve been on the receiving end of poor decisions which have cost us 5 points.
Marriner will take all of the headlines, but Albion had a number of players worthy of this. Myhill made some excellent saves and is getting better and better with every game. Clarke will have a difficult decision to make when Foster is fit next month.
Mulumbu was at his best in midfield and Sessegnon grew into the game. Shane Long also seems to reserve his best performances against Chelsea. Although isolated up front, Long gave Cahill and Terry a torrid time. It was nice to see the Long play to his potential again. More of the same against the Villa please, Shane.
It’s a shame that Albion’s performance has been overshadowed by Marriner’s howler. Clarke afterwards admitted his disappointment at the decision to rob Albion of three deserved points. But the Scot also revealed his pride about Albion’s performance. He’s right. We were excellent second half. I’m proud to be a Baggie.
Bring on the Villa.
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