Chelsea claimed back Third spot in the Premiership with a much better performance than the scoreline suggested. The Blues habit of turning potential home routs into nail-biters continued as they failed to capitalize on some superb attacking football particularly in the first half.
The angry reception that most of the press and pundits expected Rafa Benitez to get following his “I forgot to take my meds” rant in midweek, failed to materialize. Certainly elements of the Mathew Harding stand continued to voice its opinion. “The Interim One” was still hounded through a few songs and banners, but thankfully they fell on mostly deaf ears.
Whether you think the Spaniard’s outburst was due to him reaching the end of his tether or a carefully planned operation to deflect attention away from his players, sense has prevailed and supporting the football team appears now to be the priority.
Rafa’s team selection rightly saw him field his more attacking line up. As mentioned recently we will rarely see Lampard and Terry in the same team as the Captaincy rotates between the old guard. A must win home game dictated that it was Frank’s turn to lead the Blues.
The three amigo’s all featured as Mata and Hazard returned to partner Oscar. Our offensive -defense also had an outing with the speedy Azpilicueta being recalled to join Ivanovich, Luis and Cole across the back.
Demba Ba replaced Torres. Fernando actually had his best game for the Blues when he appeared as substitute. Statistically his passing completion percentage was well over 80%, the fact that he only came on in the 88th minute should be ignored. Let’s focus on the positives.
Chelsea could have racked up a cricket score against the Baggies if not for a tremendous performance by the forgotten man of English goalkeeping, Ben Foster. Oscar in particular had a frustrating time, as a combination of Foster brilliance and non-lethal finishing saw the Brazilian miss a hatful of chances.
Petr Cech was not to be outdone. Having spent most of the first half reading the match day programme, he managed to keep his concentration. Called upon in the latter stages of the game, he made a couple of crucial reflex saves for yet another clean sheet. His 138 in the EPL is now a record.
W.B.A ( well beaten away), were always going to be happy with a draw. Missing their main weapon in Lukaku, they posed little threat to the Chelsea back line. Although it was soon evident that the trickery of the Blues attack meant that parking the bus would also prove to be a futile exercise. Rock and a hard place for the popular returning coach Steve Clarke.
The first half was a no-contest. It is on days like this that our fans wonder “How did it all go so horribly wrong”. Spells of breathtaking attacking football remind us of the potential in this squad. I’m sure we will be seeing CL games at the Bridge next season.
Chelsea could have easily taken the lead as early as the third minute when Oscar missed the first of his chances. Wave after wave of attacks followed. The Blues finally took the lead on 27 mins when Demba Ba broke his recent drought. He finished well after Luis did great work heading the ball back across goal from a well thought out corner routine. The home crowd could be forgiven in thinking that now the floodgates would open. Sadly it was not to be. Half time saw Chelsea with only the slender 1-0 lead.
The longer the second half went on, the more nervous the crowd became. The team appeared to feel the negative energy and failed to match the dominance from the previous half. W.B.A were still second best but Blues Fans were having a deja-vu. Chelsea started to make some mistakes in midfield, yielding possession too easliy.
Odemwingie, forgiven for his transfer deadline antics, came on for the West Brom on 62 mins and added a more attacking dimesion. He forced Cech into a great save in the 82nd minute. From then until the final whistle Chelsea were on their heels. Cech made another couple of game saving stops before the referee blew time to the relief of all around Stamford Bridge.
Rafa should see his tenure through at this point. Any further upheaval at this stage of the season would be a big mistake.
Let’s hope for a draw in tomorrow’s game at White Hart Lane and continued good form in the Europa Cup next Thursday.