Trips to West Brom have proved arduous for us in recent years. We had suffered defeat in our last two visits to the Hawthorns, and our fortunes did not improve on Tuesday night as the Blues were held to a 1-1 draw in an outcome that gifted Arsenal and Manchester City (on goal difference) the opportunity to leapfrog Jose’s men.
Last gasp goals from Branislav Ivanovic in the first half and West Brom’s Victor Anichebe in the second saw us throw away the opportunity to move four points clear at the top ahead of Arsenal and City’s respective fixtures.
We took the lead on the stroke of half-time as Ivanovic swept home David Luiz’s flick from Willian’s corner.
However, the Serb’s opener was cancelled out by Anichebe, who also had denied Liverpool all three points eight days ago, with an accomplished glancing header. The Nigerian beat Luiz to meet Saido Berahino’s inviting cross and flicked it past the diving Petr Cech to secure a point for Pepe Mel’s side.
We were punished for a tactic I strongly oppose. Leading 1-0, we defended deeply, with John Obi Mikel’s introduction in place of Oscar highlighting Mourinho’s thinking. And as we continued to sit deeper, we were inviting and asking for sustained West Brom pressure which finally paid dividends courtesy of Anichebe’s equaliser.
Chelsea were unable to add to their advantage in the second half and force the game out of the Baggies’ reach with the all-important second goal. Ben Foster produced two wonderful saves, thwarting Samuel Eto’o’s powerful effort and Willian’s deflected strike. It is not the first occasion that we have been condemned for our failure to kill off sides, with Mourinho claiming post-match our ineptitude to do so confirmed his belief that we are not ready to win the Premier League this season:
“A ready team, a complete team, kills this game 2-0. Goodbye. We didn’t,” he said. “We have to kill games and, when we don’t kill, we can’t make defensive mistakes. We made one, or a couple.
“It was not very different against Manchester City because we had lots of chances to kill the game and never did.
“We went to the last five or 10 minutes and City had a couple of shots and corners, and the game finished with a corner and they could have equalised.
“But in that game, we didn’t make one defensive mistake, even when they put pressure on us.
“[In this match], it was not for five minutes. It was 20 minutes, and we made a couple of defensive mistakes.
“That’s not our game. It’s not how we feel comfortable. A lack of personality, perhaps. We must have the personality to get out, to not accept that pressure or to play that long in the last third.
“In this moment we have one more point than before.
“If Arsenal and City win they go above us, but that is their job. Every game is difficult and every team needs points.”
The first half was contested by two organised sides, with both sets of keepers starved of a save to make before Ivanovic gave us the lead.
It was a much more lively second forty-five as West Brom pushed for the all-decisive equaliser while we attempted to shut them out and pose a threat on the counter-attack, as we have so often done this season.
Baggies captain Chris Brunt, who boasts a lethal left foot, was left unmarked to shoot wide of Cech’s goal, sparking an altercation with Ivanovic before Anichebe levelled the scores.
Starting eleven: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Ramires, Matic, Oscar, Willian, Hazard, Eto’o.
Subs: Cole, Lampard, Torres, Mikel, Schurrle, Salah, Schwarzer.
Jose opted for the usual 4-2-3-1 with Ramires getting the nod ahead of Frank Lampard, while Nemanja Matic retained his place for the fourth game running. Eto’o started ahead of Fernando Torres, who has recovered from an injury that has kept him out since mid-January. Our back-line, which was again missing John Terry, experienced a couple of tricky moments as Gary Cahill seemed to sustain an injury while Luiz was at fault for Anichebe’s regrettable equaliser.