MATCH REPORT: WEST BROMWICH ALBION 2 CHELSEA 1
The Blues suffered a first away defeat in the league as the autumn dip continues.
West Brom, a force at home this campaign, scored with headers early in each half with Eden Hazard levelling the match via a deflection off Baggies full-back Billy Jones before the interval.
Chelsea, who made several changes to the starting line-up, had the opportunities in the second half, most notably for Daniel Sturridge who moved from the wing to centre-forward after Fernando Torres was taken off, but he came across a keeper in form, making it an unhappy return to The Hawthorns for Roberto Di Matteo who will be hoping for a better night in his home country on Tuesday.
There is little doubt the midweek internationals, especially those that had taken Juan Mata and the Brazilians to the Americas and back, influenced Di Matteo's team selection. David Luiz did come in for injured John Terry but Oscar and Ramires, plus Mata, were on the bench.
Ashley Cole was also back among the subs after injury. Cesar Azpilicueta and Ryan Bertrand retained their places as the full-backs. Daniel Sturridge started wide right with Victor Moses on the left. Oriol Romeu was alongside John Mikel Obi in midfield.
There was hearty applause for Di Matteo and Eddie Newton from the West Brom fans before kick-off, and handshakes between our bench and current Baggies boss Steve Clarke, but then old allegiances had to be forgotten quickly.
Eden Hazard, back in a central role behind Torres with today's team changes, turned nicely and found Sturridge who had come in from the flank but the England striker's early attempt from 35 yards out was over-ambitious.
On six minutes there was better work from Sturridge in a wider position followed by a penetrating run from Moses. The ball came to Bertrand who would surely have scored had he caught his shot more cleanly. Instead it was cleared off the line.
Having survived that early opportunity, West Brom rubbed it in by going ahead three minutes later, scoring a goal that was down to poor Chelsea defending. It was James Morrison who crossed from the left and David Luiz, initially with Shane Long, allowed the centre-forward to escape behind him for a header past the helpless Petr Cech.
Referee Michael Oliver spoke to but did not book Long after a rumbustious challenge on David Luiz as the defender tried to start a move forward, but West Brom, without Romelu Lukaku up front, had changed shape to give themselves an extra man in midfield and were enjoying plenty of the ball.
On 30 minutes it fell to Sturridge on the edge of the West Brom area and with little time to react, he did well to shoot first time. Myhill pouched the swerving ball.
Chelsea, when we pushed forward, were frustrated by the many blue-and-white-striped shirts that were amassed in the final third of the pitch, the long shot too often our last resort, and we were almost caught out by a 34th-minute counter-attack - Shane Long firing just inches wide with Cech exposed.
Four minutes later, Chelsea pressure did finally pay off. There was a touch of good fortune initially when Azpilicueta picked up an over-hit pass out wide and he crossed deep to the far post. Hazard was the player rising there to head towards the target, the ball diverted past Myhill by the nearby Billy Jones. Chelsea had enjoyed the breaks on this occasion.
It brought belief to the performance and Sturridge had a worthy right-footed shot soon after.
Moses was causing West Brom as many problems as anyone with his running but he was guilty of blasting over the bar when an advanced Gary Cahill had found him in space close to the end of the half. There was just time left for David Luiz to send a free-kick into the West Brom wall.
Chelsea continued to look sharper following the restart - Moses cutting through the Baggies backline and Sturridge turning and firing on-target, only for Myhill to save, but frustratingly we were undone by another cross just five minutes in.
Long sent the ball over towards the near post and this time it was Odemwingie, goal-side of Bertrand, who was able to nod past Cech to make it 2-1.
We needed to come from behind again, but a couple of balls that bounced around the West Brom six-yard box apart, there were no clear signs of a goal coming.
By the hour point Di Matteo had seen enough and introduced Oscar for Romeu and Mata for Torres with Sturridge moving to centre-forward.
Within minutes Mata had twice lofted balls forward to Sturridge who had narrowly beaten the offside trap to run clear. With the first his header skewed well off-target. The second time the ball was just too strong to be reachable. But there was promise in that play.
It was becoming a cracking game of football as the Blues pushed for a goal while West Brom always carried a threat, but we still trailed with 20 minutes to go. Mikel did well to end a counter-attack on the edge of our area and Bertrand did similar soon after.
There was momentarily hope of a penalty for a challenge by Yacob on Moses, not given, and Mata was making a difference. On 77 minutes he played the ideal pass to send Sturridge in behind the defence. The shot was crisp but Myhill dropped down and saved very well.
Five minutes further on Sturridge couldn't quite bring down another Mata ball. He was, however, continuously finding dangerous positions.
Hazard couldn't beat Myhill from 12 yards after a high ball was only half-cleared. The best chance of a leveller however came to Sturridge with four minutes left on the clock. It was made by Oscar's lay-off but from out wide and on his left foot, the striker screwed his shot wide of the far post.
Chelsea won two corners inside stoppage time but one was missed by Hazard as it was drilled in towards the near post, and the second was played short to Mata. The Spaniard's curled pass towards the far post was a touch too strong and the frustrated Chelsea following behind that goal had to watch on as Cech of all people stretched up a leg to try to keep it in.
The defeat leaves us with two points taken from the last 12 available.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech (c); Azpilicueta, Cahill, David Luiz, Bertrand; Romeu (Oscar 62), Mikel (Ramires 80); Sturridge, Hazard, Moses; Torres (Mata 62).
Unused subs Turnbull, Ivanovic, Cole, Marin.
Scorer Hazard 39.
West Brom (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Jones, Tamas, Olsson (c), Ridgewell; Mulumbu, Yacob; Odemwingie, Morrison (Dorrans 70), Gera (Brunt 70); Long (Rosenberg 80).
Unused subs L Daniels, Reid, Popov, Fortune.
Scorers Long 9, Odemwingie 50.
Referee Michael Oliver.