West Bromwich Albion’s only shot on target has opened a door for Arsenal and Manchester City, with Victor Anichebe’s 87th minute header earning the Baggies a 1-1 result at The Hawthorns against league-leading Chelsea. Temporarily moving Albion out of the drop, the draw also means the Blues will relinquish first place in the Premier League with Wednesday wins by either the Gunners or Citizens.
Chelsea went up moments before half time when Branislav Ivanovic converted an injury time corner. The score rewarded the Blues for a controlling first half, with their dominance of the ball persisting into the second period.
In the game’s closing moments, as Chelsea sought to protect their lead, Anichebe beat David Luiz to a cross from Saido Berahino, redirecting the ball inside Petr Cech’s left post to steal a point from the Blues.
The result leaves Chelsea on 57 points, two points ahead of Arsenal and threein front of Manchester City. The Gunners host Manchester United on Wednesday while City welcomes Sunderland to the Etihad.
The Baggies, still winless under Pepe Mel, move into 17th with 24 points, their goal difference giving them the tiebreaker’s edge on the Black Cats.
A West Brom defense that had conceded nine goals in their previous four outings proved surprisingly stalwart in the first half, preventing Chelsea from putting a shot on Ben Foster despite the Blues maintaining 67 percent of the ball. While the strike partnership of Barahino and Thievy Bifouma flashed a vague potential to trouble Gary Cahill, the first half was defined by Chelsea’s control in the face of Albion’s newfound resilience.
That resilience wilted just before halftime, when a corner conceded two minutes into stoppage time was converted by Ivanovic, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. On a restart flicked toward Ben Foster’s far post, the Chelsea right back lost his man for an easy tap-in, giving the visitor a late payoff after dictating the game’s first 45 minutes.
West Brom’s inability to win the ball remained problematic at the beginning of the second half, with Chelsea able to carry the play just inside their attacking third before meeting resistance. Deep and compact, the Baggies begged Chelsea to take their chances from just beyond the penalty area, a tactic that nearly saw Willian score just before the hour mark.
But Albion’s problem wasn’t Willian’s potential or its defense’s willingness to recede into its own area. Finishing the match with 40 percent possession, West Brom proved unable to take the ball off Chelsea higher up the field, where they could have made better use of Berahino and Bifouma. Instead, when the Baggies were able to gain possession, they were left trying to connect with their strikers from deep in their own end, an approach that failed to force a save from Petr Cech.
As full-time approached, Chelsea’s advances stopped, with a 70th minute counter attack that ended with a Willian shot at Foster’s chest one of the chances the Blues had to double their lead. West Brom started seeing more of the ball. Permitted to carry play out of their own end, Albion began looking capable of an equalizer.
In the 87th minute, with their first shot of on target, the Baggies had their goal. Off a cross from Berahino, substitute Victor Anichebe beat Cech with a header flicked into the bottom right corner, leaving Chelsea to pay for their inability to find a second goal.
The point temporarily moves West Brom out of the drop, their goal difference enough to pass Sunderland. The result’s more drastic effect will likely been seen at the top of the table. Wins by either Arsenal or Manchester City on Wednesday will see the Blues relinquish the Premier League’s top spot.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell; Amalfitano (Anichebe 73′), Yacob (Mulumbu 63′), Morrison, Brunt; Bifouma (Vydra 78′), Berahino
Goals: Anichebe (87′)
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Ramires (Salah 89′), Matic; Willian, Oscar (Mikel 79′), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 69′)
Goals: Ivanovic (45+2′)