On Saturday, Chelsea claimed an important win in the Premier League after beating West Brom 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. A single goal from Demba Ba was enough to seal the victory in a match largely dominated by Chelsea.
Chelsea started the game on a positive note and should have been ahead within 3 minutes of the start. Demba Ba found himself on the right-wing and put in a low cross that found Oscar in a promising position inside the penalty area. The Brazilian hit it straight towards Ben Foster who parried it behind for a corner. Chelsea’s next real chance again fell to Oscar. Ramires made a run down the middle then passed to Mata on the right-wing, who crossed and found Oscar but his tame header was straight at Foster. Ba also got a shot on target but once again, it was straight at the ‘keeper.
Chelsea looked likely to score soon, and almost did score from a David Luiz free-kick. However Foster once again did well and turned the ball out for a corner. Lampard played a short corner to Oscar and the Brazilian crossed deep and found David Luiz. Luiz headed the ball down and straight into the path of Demba Ba, who finished with authority from 6 yards out. 1-0 to Chelsea in the 27th minute.
Oscar had another good chance when he met a corner from Mata on the half-volley. The shot looked like it was on target but was somehow cleared. Chelsea went into half-time with a 1-0 lead, although they could have led by a larger margin.
The second half picked up where the first half left off. Chelsea looked like they had doubled their lead when Mata, set free by Hazard, set up Lampard and the midfielder duly converted the chance. However, the flag was raised for offside. There was a call for a penalty when Hazard looked to have been fouled by Olsson. However, the referee waved play on. Hazard later won a foul on the edge of the penalty area, but the resulting free-kick was cleared. Oscar had 2 more chances to get on the score-sheet, but both times he was denied by Ben Foster.
However, the visitors now began to press, and Cech had to put in two good saves – one from on Odemwingie free-kick and the other from a corner – to keep Chelsea’s lead alive. West Brom did manage to keep possession well, but didn’t trouble Chelsea until injury time. With 4 minutes added on, Cech had to save a low shot. However, one goal proved enough on the day as Chelsea picked up a valuable 3 points.
Chelsea’s attacking play was exquisite, and some of this was down to the fact that the midfield was set up that way (without Mikel, the midfield is usually very attack-minded). However, a lot of it was down to the fact that the trio of Mata-Oscar-Hazard played behind Demba Ba. The passing and link-up play between the 4 attackers was excellent and resulted in quite a few chances being created.
Chelsea’s dominance in possession meant that West Brom never really got going. Due to that, Chelsea’s defence was largely untested throughout the match. Whenever a shot was aimed at the Chelsea goal, Petr Cech was up to the task.
Despite creating many chances, Chelsea only won by a single goal. On a different day against different opposition, the Blues might well have been punished for wasting so many chances. Oscar in particular had a bad day in front of goal and was thwarted by Foster on numerous occasions. Creating chances is well and good, but taking some of them is just as important.
Chelsea’s set-pieces in particular were disappointing. Most corners didn’t get beyond the first man and most free-kicks were aimed straight at the wall. It seems like nitpicking on my behalf, but this has been a recurring problem for Chelsea. Maybe some free-kick and corner practice is needed at Cobham!
Next match: Steaua București in the Europa League on March 7th.