Chelsea missed the opportunity to cement their position at the top of the Premier League table on Tuesday evening as they let the lead slip when drawing 1-1 with West Brom at the Hawthorns. Jose Mourinho’s men dominated for much of the game but it took until almost the stroke of half time for them to turn that superiority into a goal, Branislav Ivanovic knocking it in after a David Luiz flick from a corner, only for a late Victor Anichebe equaliser to stun the travelling Chelsea fans and add yet another twist to the race for the title.
In the early stages of the second half Chelsea looked comfortable as Pepe Mel’s men found it difficult to fashion any meaningful chances. But, as has been the case on a number of occasions this season, the Blues were unable to convert territorial advantage into the clear cut chances they needed. The Baggies realised that Eden Hazard was Chelsea’s main danger man (the Belgian’s hat-trick against Newcastle giving Mel and his staff all the evidence they needed for such an assertion) and the creative midfielder was marshalled well for much of the game, the home side often doubling up to limit his options and space.
Chelsea’s main issue this season (as we continue to mention on this site) has been their lack of an effective striker. Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have mustered just 11 league goals between them this season, just one more than Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud and four less than Man City’s Sergio Aguero. Eto’o started the match at the Hawthorns but couldn’t find the space he enjoyed against Newcastle (when he set up one of Hazard’s goals and won the penalty for another). He was eventually replaced by Torres in the 69th minute, but the Spaniard also looked ineffectual and unlikely to force the second goal.
The home side increased in confidence as the second half wore on and, as the Blues looked to tire in the latter stages, created some chances of their own. Captain Chris Brunt and James Morrison both had chances to level but fluffed their lines, but it was left to former Everton striker Anichebe to get the crucial goal in the 87th minute as he nipped in front of David Luiz to head in a cross from Saido Berahino.
The point moved the Baggies out of the bottom three (prior to the Wednesday matches at least) and moved Chelsea two clear of second-placed Arsenal and three ahead of Man City, both of whom would leapfrog Mourinho’s men if they win on Wednesday.
After the match, Portuguese boss Mourinho suggested his side lacked “personality” when letting the Baggies back into the game by inviting the pressure in the latter stages of the game. But given the Special One always suggested his side wouldn’t win the title this year, perhaps his players are just trying to prove him right. Next up is another trip to Man City (in the FA Cup) followed by a tough home match against Everton. Are Chelsea good enough to win the title? We have our doubts after this match.