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Blues bounce back from Euro misery


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West Bromwich Albion 1-3 Chelsea

Saturday 16 April 2011 - The Hawthorns

12067812911604201115045.jpg Didier Drogba inspired Chelsea to a superb win at West Bromwich Albion as the Blues bounced back from their devastating exit from the Champions League.

After the disappointment of Tuesday evening's 2-1 loss at Old Trafford, Carlo Ancelotti got the response he craved from his side as they put in a magnificent performance to better a West Bromwich Albion side who had previously been unbeaten under new manager Roy Hodgson. It is a fantastic result for Chelsea, who had gone 1-0 down after a composed Peter Odemwingie finish with less than twenty minutes played, but Didier Drogba played the role of chief orchestrator in a sublime Blues come-back.

The Ivorian benefited from a fortuitous error by Scott Carson who could only parry Florent Malouda's devilish cross and subsequently lashed the ball home for his 13th goal of the season - and he was pivotal to the second Chelsea goal as his low shot was only parried into the path of Salomon Kalou, who duly finished into the corner to reach double figures for the campaign.

Such clinical finishing was exactly what undermined the Blues at Old Trafford on Tuesday evening, and the third goal - netted by Frank Lampard after a superb counter-charge again spear-headed by the reinvigorated Drogba - was testament to the fact that though the season has been nothing but a disappointment for the defending champions, the Blues are at least confident of a respectable Premier League finish after this three point haul moved them within a point of second-placed Arsenal.

And with the Gunners facing back-to-back games against two of the league's big boys - first Liverpool at the Emirates before a North London derby with Tottenham in midweek - Chelsea will now perhaps fancy themselves to finish ahead of Arsene Wenger's charges and therefore post a semi-decent defence of their crown.

Chelsea were dominant throughout, and more composure in the second half would surely have heaped an even greater goalscoring return for Ancelotti's side. With the Italian tweaking his 4-3-3 with the inclusion of John Mikel Obi, Ashley Cole was able to bomb on down the left flank and proved to be a persistent threat to the Albion defence throughout the match. Alongside Drogba, Cole was the stand-out performer in a competent all-round performance, and a return to form for the world's best left-back helped provide natural width to Chelsea's offensive set-up.

Eyebrows were raised as Ancelotti opted to leave both Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka on the bench, but faith in a front three of Kalou, Malouda and Drogba was vindicated early on - despite Chelsea falling behind. There had already been an element of danger inside the opening minutes when Yusuf Mulumbu curled over Petr Cech's bar, and West Brom's confidence was personified in Odemwingie as he effortlessly chipped the onrushing Czech to score his twelfth of the season inside twenty minutes.

But that goal seemed to do little more than galvanise Chelsea. The Blues had enjoyed plenty of possession, but their attack-minded formation encouraged greater support out wide, and it was through devilish wing-play that they restored parity just five minutes after conceding. Malouda's cross was only pushed back into the danger zone by Carson, and Drogba was on hand to score his third goal in five matches - something representing a return to form for the Ivorian.

And that strike seemed to renew Chelsea's talisman into new-found confidence, and his team would again profit from his persistence when he rode two challenges before firing a shot that Carson could only half-deal with, and that left Kalou the opportunity to finish with aplomb. A good finish from an awkward angle, it was Kalou's tenth of the season and the Ivorian duo were certainly justifying their respective selections up top.

Drogba then started off the move which killed off West Brom - his pass releasing Malouda, who slipped the ball back to Lampard before the England midfielder duly lashed home. It was a goal that oozed quality and embodied the Blues' first-half in a passage of sheer brilliance - the pace of the counter-attack had left Albion wanting defensively, and Lampard's strike took his to ten for the season; an impressive tally considering four months' absence through niggling injuries.

Hodgson would have been glad to hear the first half whistle with Chelsea in dominating mood - but a more resolute performance in the second half from his side reduced Chelsea to just the three goals - a still nonetheless impressive tally considering the Baggies' recent form. Whilst Frank Lampard saw a vicious, swerving free-kick parried over by Carson and a deflected Kalou effort kissed the woodwork, clear-cut chances were relatively few and far-between, but Chelsea exerted a measure of calmness and professionalism in a dominating second half performance.

Drogba was again the star of the show, and his contribution offensively was being matched by his defensive prowess inside his own area - but it was through an outrageous piece of brilliance that he nearly set up a Chelsea fourth when a superb jinked cross to the far post evaded Kalou by a matter of centimetres. Meanwhile, Michael Essien headed straight at Carson as Chelsea looked to rack up an even-more-impressive scoreline.

But the effort of the match belonged to the right foot of Drogba - the Ivorian missing by inches as he tried an outrageous effort from 45 yards that just dipped too late, and skimmed the roof of the net. Malouda produced a fine low stop from Carson and Kalou again went close, before both Malouda and Benayoun were guilty of over-complicating proceedings and two respective chances evaporated. Substitute Fernando Torres then looked to have netted his first Chelsea goal but was denied by an offside flag, before Chris Brunt headed straight at Petr Cech as the Baggies made a solitary venture forward with merely five minutes remaining.

However a 3-1 win represents a wonderful result for Ancelotti's side - they may end up trophyless, but pipping Arsenal to second would still just about make up for a season of disappointment.


West Bromwich Albion (4-4-1-1):Carson; Reid, Meite, Olsson, Shorey; Brunt ©, Scharner (Jara 72), Mulumbu, Thomas (Tchoyi 81); Morrison (Vela 72); Odemwingie.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic (Bosingwa 62), Luiz, Terry ©, Cole; Essien, Mikel, Lampard (Benayoun 76); Kalou, Drogba (Torres 81), Malouda

The TalkChelsea.net man of the match was Chelsea's number 11, Didier Drogba

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We weren't really playing for anything, there was nothing at stake for either of the teams and it showed really. It was a typical end of season match that's got nothing much riding on it.

Torres though - dearie me, it's just not going to happen, is it? Once again incorrectly called offside. So that makes it two, counting the perfectly legitimate yet disallowed goal against United in the league.

MOTM - Ashley Cole for me, put in his best performance in a long while.

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A typical end of season game doesn't have as much attacking excitement as that, Jaimin. However, the pressure was off and it allowed us to play with some character. A good performance.

All the attacking excitement was down to Brom who allowed us all the space in the world - they know they're safe for the season and have no shot at Europe, basically nothing to play for now. On our part, the plethora of chances we missed in the second half showed we'd taken our foot off the pedal. Had this been earlier in the season I guarantee you we'd have hit them for 7 or 8.

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Finally, Lampard used his positioning to score a beauty. However, there were other opportunities later calling for another shots. He decided to pass it back and wide though, that's irritating. Our counter-attacking was impressive as well, we were going forward in more men - incredible :D

I don't want to name the best player - the whole team together put in great performance, finally - however Ashley, Obi and Drogs really stood out.

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Good performance by the whole team.

I'm totaly agree on the MOTM. Drogba was everywhere. He was good at attack, good at defense, nuff said.

My second satisfaction is the partnership Essien-Mikel, they were really good today. Mikel has completed 80 passes out of 83, Essien 93 out of 104. Impressive. I hope to see that again.

Finaly Malouda has made a decent game.

ps: good report mate.

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