Blues a thorn in the Throstles side
Written By: Robert Halter
Under fire interim Blues boss Rafael Benitez urged Chelsea fans to end their protests against him and support the team, ahead of the visit from West Bromwich Albion for the Premiership clash at Stamford Bridge, beginning of March, which had not been a happy hunting ground for the Baggies, whose last league success there was in 1978. Former Blues assistant coach Steve Clarke made his first appearance as an opposition manager. A pin point save by Ben Foster, kept out a well timed strike by Oscar from a Demba Ba cross in the third minute and then moments later Oscar was instrumental in setting up Juan Mata, who drove the ball across the face of the goal. But on six minutes, a foul by Ramires on James Morrision, awarded the Baggies a free kick that Steven Reid struck from distance and it took a reflex stop by Petr Cech to tip the ball over. On twenty six minutes it was Foster’s time to turn over a David Luiz free kick, after Claudio Yacob had fouled Oscar but from Frank Lampard’s resulting short corner, Oscar knocked the ball back for Luiz to head the ball onto Ba, who from close range put the ball in. The Baggies could have fallen further behind as Mata’s low drive went narrowly wide on the half hour mark. Four minutes into the second half, a Lampard goal was given offside before a Branislav Ivanovic effort was also ruled out from a quickly taken free kick, after Mata had been fouled by Yacob. On fifty nine minutes, Chelsea had a penalty appeal turned away, after Throstles captain Jonas Olsson challenged Eden Hazard in the area. As the Baggies looked to chase the game, Peter Odemwingie took over from Marc-Antoine Fortune. With twenty minutes of normal time left, Albion switched Graham Dorrans for Jerome Thomas. A well worked Chelsea move on seventy seven minutes, started with a Cesar Azpilicueta cross being headed down by Ba and ended with Oscar’s low strike being kept out by Foster’s quick reactions. Blues first change saw Victor Moses replace Hazard, two minutes later. This was swiftly followed by Oscar prizing open the Baggies defence before testing Foster with a low drive. After Markus Rosenberg replaced Yacob, the Throstles gained a free kick after Odemwingie was pulled down by Mata and a fiercely struck free kick by Odemwingie had to be put over the bar by Cech in the eighty second minute. From Morrison’s corner, the Baggies could have again equalised as Cech managed to scramble clear a rebound off his own defender Azpilicueta, as the game drew to a close. Fernando Torres made a brief appearance at the end in favour of Ba, whose winning goal had settled the outcome. It was a hard fought victory for Chelsea as Cech had to hold onto a low shot by Odemwingie in stoppage time. John Obi Mikel took over from Oscar, before referee Kevin Friend blew his final whistle.