West Brom v Chelsea Match Report
With the best win ratio of any Chelsea manager in league history, Antonio Conte took charge of his 50th Premier League game with Chelsea against West Brom. A cold afternoon in the West Midland saw David Luiz promoted from the stands to the bench ahead of kick-off.
Andreas Christensen retained his place having performed well against Manchester United last time out. Conte went with his new preferred option of a 3-5-2 or 3-1-4-2 or 3-4-1-2, whichever you want choose. In all honesty it`s three at the back, two up top, with a fluid five in the middle.
Tony Pulis for his part set West Brom up with three defensive midfielders. Chelsea's task for the afternoon, was to break through, what was bound to be, a stoic, stubborn defence.
Alvaro Morata get the game underway, but it was the hosts who made the better start. Salomon Rondon had the ball in the net with a header, but he was a metre offside. Following the international break, the Blues were looking a bit ring-rusty. Rondon had another opportunity inside the box but Cesar Azpilicueta came to the rescue.
Tiemoue Bakayoko carried on from where he left off in the United game with a rampaging surge into the box that resulted in a shot off target. He really needs to work on his finishing.
With West Brom on top, the game turned when Eden Hazard was fouled by Gareth Barry. Hazard was booed relentlessly by the few West Brom fans that bothered to turn up. Shortly after, he ran at the West Brom defence saw his low, driven shot palmed away by Ben Foster into the path of Alvaro Morata, who said thank you very much.
Just five minutes later, Morata returned the favour, with deft back heel flick onto the nippy Belgian, who chased forward before rounding Foster and slotting home from a tight angle.
With the homeside 2-0 down, the Chelsea faithful returned a favourite West Brom fan chant, of 'You`re getting sacked in the morning, aimed, of course at Tony Pulis. Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto di Matteo were both sacked by Roman Abramovich following league games at the Hawthorns. This time the boot was on the other foot.
For once the Baggies petulant fouling was a major part of their downfall. Rather than simply breaking up play, it more often than not resulted in a Chelsea opportunity. That was certainly the case in the 38th minute when such a foul gave Cesc Fabregas the chance to swing a free kick into the penalty area. He did so, and Marcos Alonso ran in and volleyed the ball into the roof of the net. Game Over. Cue a sudden fire drill amongst the West Brom supporters.
With Chelsea 3-0 in front, it was unlikely that the second half would see as much action as the former. West Brom had plenty of possession initially, but did little with it, whilst another Eden Hazard effort was saved and pounced on by Cesc Fabregas, who was booked for diving.
With the home side all huff and no puff, Chelsea grabbed the initiative and with 62 minutes on the clock, Fabregas collected his second assist of the afternoon. His trade-mark lofted ball over the top found Hazard, who cut inside and fired low past Foster. As the West Brom fans left the stadium, there were cries of Pulis out as the Blues fans celebrated.
Shortly after Conte made his first substitution of the afternoon, replacing dual assiter Fabregas with Danny Drinkwater. As the game ran out of pace the Hazard was replaced with Pedro as Conte looked towards the long trip to Azerbaijan and back.
Conte`s final change of the afternoon saw our French midfield maestro N`golo Kante replaced by Willian. With a win taking Chelsea into second place in the league, it`s difficult to see how the press will be able to spin a negative story out of it. They no doubt will though.
As the game petered out, Conte was still urging his side to chase every ball. With a few minutes remaining Morata picked up a yellow card for fouling Claudio Yacob. Yacob, himself had just been booked for fouling Andreas Christensen. It was a nice moment, that the human fouling machine, that Yacob is fully deserved.
This game was very much about three players, Fabregas, Hazard and Morata, and the 4-0 win was very much deserved. If City are free and easy in the chase for the Premier League title, the rest need to be on their guard.