The Hawthorns is quickly becoming a house of horrors for Chelsea managers, with both Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo losing their jobs after league losses there. Chelsea also have a surprisingly poor record while wearing black, and seemed to be tempting fate on a bitterly cold night by wearing the cursed kits on their very own Isla de Muerta. Luckily, Jose Mourinho will be in no danger of losing his job after dropping two valuable points on Tuesday.
As we've been witnessing all season, Mourinho's Chelsea are a work in progress. The current squad is most dangerous when the opposition commits men forward, capable of exposing any weaknesses the opposition shows. Pepe Mel understood this and prepared his squad accordingly. West Brom would follow the model so well executed by West Ham, sitting deep and narrow, while rarely committing to an attack.
Chelsea dealt poorly with this approach, as has so often been the case. Slow ball movement, too many touches, and generally inaccurate passing combined to neutralize the Chelsea attack. The usually endless energy of Ramires was wasted with no place to run, and the attacking foursome of Samuel Eto'o, Eden Hazard, Oscar, and WIllian looked like they were exhausted from the opening kick.
Luckily, Chelsea have a pretty excellent plan B, which gave them the lead just before the halftime whistle blew. With Nemanja Matic, David Luiz, Gary Cahill, and Branislav Ivanovic all coming forward on set pieces, very few teams are going to easily cope with Chelsea set pieces. Unsurprisingly, West Brom flirted with danger in this regard all night. David Luiz was tackled in the box. Gary Cahill was run over as a ball was about to reach his head. Even when West Brom were dealing with the danger without being let off the hook by the referee, you could sense that continued corners would eventually lead to an opener.
It wasn't a shock, then, when the final corner of the half resulted in a lead. David Luiz got free to flick Willian's corner to the back post, Ivanovic tapped home, and Chelsea went into the locker room with the halftime lead. The breakthrough had finally arrived, and it looked like it would be smooth sailing from that point on.
The second half got underway with West Brom finally showing some attacking ambition. Space was created for Chelsea's attackers to exploit, but the same combination of poor passing and tired legs doomed every counterattack the Blues launched. An exhausted Eto'o made way for Fernando Torres, but the newly healthy striker looked both rusty and sluggish. West Brom established a solid foothold, and began to create real chances.
Unsurprisingly, Mourinho decided to close up shop with just over ten minutes to play. John Obi Mikel came on for Oscar, while Frank Lampard was preparing to replace one of Hazard or Willian. Just before the substitution could be made, Petr Cech made a poor decision on a Berahino cross, and Victor Anichebe made Chelsea pay.
Mohamed Salah came on instead of Lampard, but it was too little too late. The title race will likely tighten back up tomorrow, as the Blues dropped two big points in a game you'd reasonably expect them to win. The utterly frustrating part about this game is that we'll now have taken just two points this season against West Brom, a side that still has a very reasonable chance to be relegated before all is said and done. We haven't been particularly unlucky against them either, as two points is probably one more than Mourinho's squad have deserved.
I really beginning to dislike playing at The Hawthorns.
I'm sick of watching us lose while wearing black kits.