West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Chelsea – Still in the Hunt

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.

Match report

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.

Team selection

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.

There are 11 comments

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  1. Blue_MikeL

    Great review, but I think for this draw we should blame Jose and not the team. This defensive sub Oscar off Mikel signals to opposition nothing else, but “please start to attack we want to defense”. We always let goals in such situations. 🙁
    On the good side yesterday met Frank Lampard during my dinner at La Petite Maison.

  2. WorkingClassPost

    Yup, I’m in full agreement.

    If one characteristic of a transitional period is one two steps forward then one step back, that was definitely a step backwards, or maybe only half a step (we did squeeze a point), so still in transition?

    Jose compared it to the City game, but that’s spurious, because we hit the woodwork almost as many times then as we managed to hit the target against Brum (3 + 4) and City are a top side too.

    Like many others, I can’t understand Jose’s obsession with playing defensive football against teams that start the match hoping just not to suffer humiliation and end up inflicting same on us.

    If we don’t want to play with two strikers because it spoils our shape, OK, but then how does that square with playing three defensive midfielders?

    It was interesting to hear Jose’s comments about our defenders sitting too deep, so perhaps he thought that Mikel’s introduction would give them the confidence to push out more, but human nature being what it is, the guys just saw the move and took it as a signal to hold on to what we had.

    I seem to remember Jose often used to overlap his forwards before when he made substitutions, so that the second striker came on and they played together for a while before he took the first striker off near the end, which forces the opposition to play deeper before we shut up shop.

    Anyway, I’m content that we’re still in transition, and welcome our next steps forward.

  3. limetreebower

    Ah, José. You can see why fans of other teams hate him so much. He’s spent the last few weeks quietly working on Pellegrini and has just about got him to crack, then poor old Wenger thinks he’ll chip in with a little “mind game” of his own by saying we’re favourites … and boom! José gives him the howitzer.

    Pellegrini has the right idea, trying his very best to stay totally cool and not respond to anything, though you can tell it’s taking an immense effort. But Wenger. Oh dear. Fine manager, but totally out of his depth with this sort of stuff.

  4. Cunningplan

    We didn’t look remotely interested, not one thunderous tackle put in by any player, City included.
    I think it’s the first time I’ve not been too bothered by a result, I suppose the less games we play during the run, might well be a little bit more advantageous for us.

  5. Cunningplan

    I have to say this latest spat between Jose and Wenger is being blown out of all proportion.We had Robbie Fowler on football focus yesterday calling Jose “disrespectful and should have a look at himself.” Well Robbie perhaps you should have afforded Graeme Le Saux something similar when you were alluding to his sexuality a few years ago with the bending over gesture.
    And the BBC are continuing to look for every man and his dog to come out and condemn Jose with the latest has been Bob Wilson. http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/26216070

  6. Simon

    It’s just like the good old days… All these attacks on JM can only mean one thing… JM is getting very successful!
    TSO is also The Successful One!

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