Two superb shots from Eden Hazard, his 14th and 15th goals of the season, either side of a second-half strike from Victor Moses put smiles back on Chelsea faces and maintained our place in the top four, with this Monday night match completing the weekend’s round of Premier League fixtures.
After defeats home and away in the preceding seven days, a victory like this one over the bottom-placed club was just what was needed, and a clean sheet was very welcome too. There was also a first Chelsea start for Olivier Giroud who played an important part in the opening goal and had an eventful hour on the pitch.
Antonio Conte had also been able to welcome Andreas Christensen back into the defence, the Dane over the hamstring problem that had forced him off in the previous home game, and Alvaro Morata was named among the subs following a back injury, and he returned to action too in the second half.
West Brom boss Alan Pardew, however, was forced to change his forward line with barely a ball kicked and it was Daniel Sturridge, ex of this parish, who had the misfortune to be forced off with such an early injury. The on-loan-from-Liverpool striker was replaced by Jay Rodriguez.
The Baggies other forward, Salomon Rondon, sent a bullet header wide during an unsteady start for the Blues and an unmarked Rodriguez shot tamely wide. A few early jitters were maybe inevitable after the past two results.
There were a couple of early showings in the opposition box by Giroud and a flying Davide Zappacosta, continuing in place of Marcos Alonso who twisted an ankle in training on Saturday, was unfortunate not to be given a free-kick when his advance down the left was halted by a trip.
It was Zappacosta who was denied by Ben Foster’s reactions at the far post when Cesar Azpilicueta’s curling cross had evaded all those waiting in the middle in front of goal. It was Chelsea’s best moment so far and a good save, and there were 17 minutes on the clock.
Foster’s outstretched leg also prevented Giroud getting his name on the Chelsea scoresheet for the first time when he paddled Hazard’s well-spotted pass across the turf.
Chelsea were beginning to play our stuff and there were a good two minutes of pushing at the West Brom door before it was opened by Hazard in the 25th minute. It was the Belgian who received the ball back to goal and with opposition in close attendance behind him. One trademark turn and pass to Giroud followed, with his new team-mate carefully delivering the ball back into Hazard’s path. He needed no second invitation to sweep it low past Foster and into the bottom corner for a 1-0 lead.
Giroud was not far away from making it 2-0 with a spectacular overhead kick when Christensen’s aerial challenge for a corner sent it back across goal, but the January signing was on the turf again soon after for more painful reasons. He was accidentally studded on the back of the head by Ahmed Hegazi and required a big bandage to stem the blood flow but was able to continue.
Just before half-time, it was Giroud again the focal point as Hazard spread the play and Pedro carved the Baggies defence open on the right, but the France centre-forward headed the cross wide.
There was still time for a first-half booking for Jonny Evans for a painful foul into the back of Giroud’s ankle.
Kieran Gibbs did similar on Moses at the start of the second half and he too went into the book. Azpilicueta then made a vital near-post challenge when the visitors threatened, and 11 minutes into the second period, Rondon allowed Courtois to save when he should have given our keeper no chance with the goal gaping. The Blues players were incensed no free-kick had been given for Rondon climbing all over the back of Christensen to get to the ball. From the corner, there was a chance for Evans but the Baggies skipper headed over.
Alvaro Morata, who had returned to training two days ago, replaced the battered Giroud with 60 minutes played. The new addition almost immediately had a shot deflected over following a brilliant Hazard pass and a touch from Pedro, who was having his busiest and most influential game in a while.
The important second goal arrived soon after. It was Moses who had brought the ball in from the wing, and there followed a moment of good fortune when Fabregas’ back-heel was diverted into the Nigerian’s path by a defender, but the finish was sharp, and was the back-flip celebration in front of the cheering Matthew Harding Stand.
There were 20 minutes to go and it was Morata who came closest to adding to the score in that period, striking sweetly from distance and drawing a diving save from Foster. The Spaniard looked lively during his second-half cameo.
The three points tonight take us back above Tottenham who had moved ahead of us on Saturday, but next up come two home games in two different competitions – Hull here on Friday in the FA Cup and then Barcelona as the Champions League knockout commences. Tickets for the Hull game are on general sale.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta (c), Christensen (Cahill 74), Rudiger; Moses, Kante, Fabregas, Zappacosta; Hazard, Giroud (Morata 61), Pedro (Willian 80).
Unused subs Caballero, Emerson, Ampadu, Drinkwater.
Scorers Hazard 25, 71, Moses 63.
West Brom (4-4-2): Foster; Dawson, Evans (c), Hegazi; Phillips, Krychowiak, Barry (Yacob 80), Brunt (Burke h-t), Gibbs; Sturridge (Rodriguez 4), Rondon.
Unused subs Myhill, Nyom, McAuley, McClean.
Booked Evans 45+3, Gibbs 49
Referee Lee Mason