Competition Boost For Giroud and Morata
Off the back of two games we shall not mention, the Chelsea manager, players and even to an extent the owner, were all under a little bit of pressure ahead of tonight`s game.
Victory would see Chelsea jump above Tottenham into that all important fourth Champions League spot. The pressure clearly showed in the opening minutes though, with West Brom starting the better of the two sides.
A Victor Moses headed, 'I`m not sure what` fell at the feet of Jay Rodriguez, who scuffed his shot well wide when he should have done better. Rodriguez had replaced the ex-Chelsea man, Daniel Sturridge with just 4 minutes gone. Sturridge was injured in an innocuous challenge by Cesar Azpilicueta.
Giroud was doing a good job of making a nuisance himself in the West Brom box, occupying a strikers position in front of the goal. He had his first chance of grabbing a goal on his full debut with 20 minutes gone. Eden Hazard, as ever the creator, picked out the Frenchman, who was centrally placed and in space. He tried to place the ball pat Ben Foster in the WBA goal but the effort lacked direction or pace. Foster saved comfortably.
The longer the half went on, the stronger Chelsea looked. Pedro drew a foul on the edge of the box giving Hazard the chance of a Marcos Alonso-esque free kick which he fired into the wall.
However, as ever it was the Hazard who was pulling the strings. West Brom`s best answer for him was to simply operate their rotational fouling system, in which they took it in turns to upend him.
With 24 minutes gone and Chelsea still in the ascendancy, some intricate play around the West Brom penalty area resulted in some good interplay between Hazard and Giroud.
It was the Frenchman who touched the ball onto Hazard with the slightest of touches. Hazard wrong footed Foster firing the ball home to the keepers right. Giroud had made his first contribution to his new life in Blue.
Giroud then became the target, he was bundled over in the penalty area and his head was caught by the trailing leg of a West Brom defender. That resulted in a massive bandage that played havoc with his well coiffured hair.
Minutes later he was bundled over by Johnny Evans and caught on the back of the calf. Evans received a yellow card for his trouble. That incident effectively brought the half to an end.
Half-time Chelsea 1-0 West Brom
The second half once again saw Chelsea start like they had something to lose, a manager maybe. West Brom sensed it but for all their bluster were unable to affect any sort of goalmouth action. Like the first half Chelsea grew into the game and fed off a growing confidence.
There were certainly patches of sloppy play though and with the next three games, after the visit of Hull, coming away at the two Manchester clubs and a home tie with Barcelona, they`ll have to tighten things up considerably.
With 60 minutes gone, Giroud made way for Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard must have undergone some kind of miraculous recovery from his recent persistent back problem. On Friday Conte had no idea when he would back in contention for a game, and here he was playing the last 30 minutes of a game just three days later.
Morata looked sharp right from the off. His break had clearly had a good effect on him. Cesc Fabregas tried to backheel the ball onto him but it ricocheted off a defender to Victor Moses, who slotted home. Moses was not having a great game to that point, but, fair play he took his chance well.
Buoyed by the goal Moses had another long range effort saved by Foster`s feet. At 2-0 Chelsea could relax a tad but they still looked vulnerable at times. West Brom though, were simply not up to the task. They are not bottom of the EPL for nothing.
There was no way Chelsea would let these three points slip, and the lead became unassailable when Morata played in Hazard on the right. He went on one of his runs into the box before firing past Foster once again.
The arrival of Giroud and his impact on his full debut appeared to have woken Morata from his slumber. He looked full of energy as he fired a shot in from 30 yards.
Conte replaced Pedro with Willian with 10 minutes remaining. With the Chelsea faithfull chanting Antonio Conte`s name, the Italian had staved off his departure, at least for the time being.
This was a much improved performance from Chelsea. A clean sheet, a positive impact from Giroud and Morata looking more like the striker we know he can be, and things were a little less grim.
Next up for Chelsea is the visit of Hull City in the FA Cup. Strangely, it takes place on Friday evening. For once though, that works out well for Chelsea with Barcelona then heading to Stamford Bridge the first leg of their round of sixteen tie the following Tuesday. With players likely to rested in the Hull game, it gives the major first XI players another eight days recovery before that game.
Final Score Chelsea 3-0 West Brom