Saturday tea-time drama! A first half to forget in the West Midlands nearly cost Chelsea dear, with defensive mistakes and missed chances allowing West Bromwich Albion to establish a 3-0 lead by half-time, but a spirited fightback rescued a point that our second performance deserved.
Changes were made at the interval and the Blues responded with some scintillating attacking moves and eye-catching goals from Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi, and the crucial third came deep into added time, tapped home by Tammy Abraham from close range. It was so reminiscent of the Champions League classic against Ajax last season.
We gifted the promoted side, who began the day bottom of the table, the ball for their first two goals, scored by Ireland international Callum Robinson, and familiar set-piece frailty was culpable for the third. At the other end first-half chances were created but Abraham missed the target twice and Timo Werner hit the bar.
It was certainly not the Premier League introduction Thiago Silva would have dreamed about, as he made the mistake for goal number two. Marcos Alonso, who made an error for the first, was replaced at half-time, and the second half display by Frank Lampard’s men was much improved, ensuring that in this contest between sides managed by two former West Ham team-mates, the spoils were shared with Slaven Bilic’s team.
Tammy Abraham’s productive showing against Barnsley midweek, which yielded a goal and three assists, earned him a place in the starting line-up today, allowing the centre-forward to link again with Kai Havertz, and with Timo Werner who was also selected.
Thiago Silva was handed the captain’s armband on his Premier League debut. He was paired with Andreas Christensen and behind them Willy Caballero was in goal. Frank Lampard had reported the game came too early for new signing Edouard Mendy.
Former Chelsea star defender Branislav Ivanovic was not involved for West Brom.
Behind early on
It was a chilly late afternoon at the Hawthorns, the highest ground in the country in terms of altitude. It really felt like autumn had arrived and Chelsea were caught cold when the home side went ahead from their first attack.
There were just three minutes gone when Robinson fired hard across Caballero from the left side of the penalty area after Matheus Pereira in the middle had worked the ball wide. A misplaced Alonso header had led to the move and our left-back was booked soon after.
Havertz was the first to have a shot for Chelsea, from distance and saved low down by Sam Johnstone, and the West Brom goalie was scrabbling to his far post not long after when Reece James’ cross was aimed Tammy Abraham’s way but the big striker could not keep a difficult chance under control.
The Blues (not in blue today as we were wearing the new third kit for the first time) were keeping the pressure on and Timo Werner volleyed crisply when he met Mason Mount’s centre but struck it just too high. It clipped the bar on its way over.
Two goals in four minutes
That Werner chance was with quarter of an hour played and Chelsea continued to look the side most likely to score next until midway through the half when Thiago Silva’s mistake gifted West Brom, and Robinson, the second goal. The experienced centre-back received a pass but took a loose touch and the scorer nipped in, was away, and the exposed Caballaro had no chance with the low finish.
If that was bad for the Blues, it got a whole lot worse only three minutes later when our marking was conspicuous by its absence at a corner and the deficit became 3-0. Darnell Furlong, son of our former striker Paul, had pulled back to the edge of the area as the delivery came in and was left unmarked to head down, and centre-back Kyle Bartley was also free to slot in from six-yards out.
Lampard’s expression on the touchline said a lot about what he was seeing from his side defensively.
James had been booked for a challenge before that goal but continued to pose Chelsea’s biggest attacking threat. Johnstone punched away one of the deliveries that arrived with pace and then when our right-back teed up Abraham, he shot tamely over.
Two second-half changes
Callum Hudson-Odoi replaced Mateo Kovacic for the restart and Cesar Azpilicueta was a straight swap for Alonso at left-back.
With Hudson-Odoi joining the attackers it meant Mount played a little deeper and Kante was on his own anchoring the midfield, and it was from his more withdrawn position that Mount found the net in stunning style to make the score 3-1. Taking an Azpi pass and slipping inside his marker, he swerved the ball inside the near post from 25 yards out with Johnstone rooted.
The youngster waved his team-mates back for the restart, he still believed and there was plenty of time to go. Before long Werner was firing a ball across the face of goal and Havertz forced an excellent save from the Baggies keeper.
We continued on the front foot. Mount had another shot blocked before Hudson-Odoi cut the deficit to one goal when he expertly finished off a slick move with 69 minutes played.
Back in it
Werner was involved and when Hudson-Odoi took his pass he played a controlled one-two with Havertz and swept the ball home with his right-foot.
Olivier Giroud came on for Thiago Silva straight after that goal, with Azpilicueta moving to the centre.
Romaine Sawyers went close to giving West Brom some more breathing space and up the other end, Werner and Havertz tried to worm their way through a tight defence and some hopeful long shots were attempted.
Crucially, one from close range by Werner took a touch and won a corner. Over 90 minutes had been played. West Brom could not clear their lines properly so Mount had another low shot. The keeper saved but Abraham was on hand to grab something from this contest.
Although dropping points here can be considered disappointing, and there was evidence there is still plenty of work to be done, there were prolonged glimpses of what could be to come in the way we played in the second half.
There is very little turnaround time before we are back in Carabao Cup action, taking on Tottenham in what will be our second visit to their new stadium. Let’s hope it goes as well as the first. The match is on Tuesday evening.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Caballero; James, Christensen, Silva (c) (Giroud 72), Alonso (Azpilicueta h-t); Kante, Kovacic (Hudson-Odoi); Mount, Havertz, Werner; Abraham.
Unused subs Kepa, Tomori, Jorginho, Barkley,
Scorers Mount 55, Hudson-Odoi 70, Abraham 90+3
Booked Alonso 8, James 27, Christensen 86
West Brom (3-5-2): Johnstone; Ajayi, Bartley, O’Shea; Furlong, Livermore (c), Sawyers, Diangana (Phillips 74), Townsend; Pereira (Field 90+1), Robinson (Robson-Kanu 66).
Unused subs Button, Kipre, Harper, Edwards.
Scorers Robinson 4, 25, Bartley 28
Booked Furlong 82
Referee Jon Moss