Chelsea 2-2 West Brom Match Report – 13th January 2016

A late equaliser from West Brom denied Chelsea all three points on a frustrating night at Stamford Bridge. Cesar Azpilicueta had put the Blues ahead, only for Craig Gardner to equalise. A Gareth McAuley own goal looked to have been enough for the Blues to win it, until James McClean scored to prevent the home side from overtaking the Baggies in the Premier League table.

Guus Hiddink had ruled Diego Costa out of this game at the weekend, but despite that the Spaniard started here, leading the attack. He was supported by Willian, Oscar and Pedro, with Eden Hazard once again not even fit enough to make the bench. John Terry and John Obi Mikel both returned after sitting out the cup game at the weekend. Thibaut Courtois also returned to the side after being rested in the FA Cup.

There was a sense of optimism around the Bridge after the good recent performances from the Blues. That almost made you forget about the extent of the problems within the team, many of which were laid bare over the course of the 90 minutes. Everything started off pretty well though, with the home side getting themselves ahead after 20 minutes.

The combination for the opening goal says a lot about Hiddink’s Chelsea. Branislav Ivanovic, who was by far the biggest underperformer in the last few months of last year, was the man who provided the assist. His cross was met by his fellow full back, Azpilicueta, who scored just his third goal for the club. The fact that both full backs were so attacking shows the manager’s mentality, but it also hinted at problems to come.

West Brom came back at the Blues after that goal, knowing full well that there were gaps to exploit. Gardner was on as a substitute after just five minutes, but he was up to speed in the game by the half hour mark. Pedro gave the ball away cheaply and Gardner found himself in acres of space in the middle of the park. He took one touch, strode forward and smashed the ball home.

Pedro found himself hooked off at half time, with youngster Kenedy taking his place on the left wing. The young Brazilian played a key part in the second goal, as Willian’s low cross towards the forward touched in off McAuley, who diverted the ball into the bottom corner of his own net.

Chelsea seemed on course to win it, but poor defending cost them again. The players switched off and the ball rolled to the unmarked McClean at the edge of the box. He had all the time in the world to pick his spot, putting the ball in the bottom corner to prevent the Blues taking all three points. The win was there for the taking, but once again the defending just wasn’t up to scratch.

LCN Man of the Match: Willian (again!)