An injury-time penalty from Eden Hazard preserved Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten Premier League record at Stamford Bridge on the manager’s 100th home league game.
It had looked as though West Brom had come from behind to take the points on an afternoon of frustration, but Hazard’s ice-cool spot kick won us a point after Ramires had been brought down inside the area.
An underwhelming display had seen us lead thanks to Samuel Eto’o’s goal just before half-time, but on the hour the visitors levelled through a Shane Long header and then broke to steal what looked like a winner seven minutes later, which would have consigned Chelsea to consecutive league defeats after last weekend’s loss at Newcastle.
The Blues continued to pressure, however, and when Ramires burst into the area with four minutes of stoppage time all but up, referee Andre Marriner pointed to the spot and Hazard stroked the ball home to grab a point.
Mourinho made two changes from the side that started against Schalke in midweek, as Frank Lampard and Hazard returning to the line-up at the expense of John Mikel Obi and Andre Schurrle.
Hazard had been punished in midweek after a breach of discipline, but was back in alongside Oscar and Willian behind Eto’o, who scored twice on Wednesday. Cesar Azpilicueta continued at left-back, with Ashley Cole among the substitutes.
West Brom, under the tutelage of Steve Clarke, the Chelsea legend who assisted Mourinho during his first spell at the club, and who the manager referred to as a family member in his programme notes, continued to be without first choice goalkeeper Ben Foster, so Boaz Myhill deputised.
Clarke embraced every member of Mourinho’s coaching team before kick-off, which was also preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence to remember those service men and women who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Once the game got underway, action was a little slow to arrive. Oscar and Eto’o had tame shots on target from distance while at the other end Morgan Amalfitano and Chris Brunt both shot wide.
Fourteen minutes in Lampard was booked for a clip on Shane Long’s heels as the Baggies forward broke clear after the Chelsea man’s free-kick had been blocked by the defensive wall.
Just before the half-hour, Hazard was tripped by Claudio Yacob, who joined Lampard in the book. Oscar’s free-kick was bound for the top corner until Myhill tipped it over. That was the closest either side had come until Chelsea took the lead right on the stroke of half-time.
Hazard cut inside from the left and shot low, bringing a decent one-handed save from Myhill, who would have expected Liam Ridgewell to clear the loose ball, only for the defender to hesitate and allow Eto’o in to poke home his third goal of a profitable week.
It put a gloss on what had been a first half lacking talking points. Chelsea had spent much of the game inside the visitors’ half but had forced few chances and rarely threatened a West Brom side that had caused very few problems itself.
Mourinho would want more from his men after the break, despite the narrow lead.
Oscar’s excellence put Eden Hazard through within just a couple of minutes of the restart, but the Belgium man was unable to control the diagonal pass, allowing Myhill to collect easily and keep West Brom within touching distance.
Eleven minutes into the second period they almost drew level, Amalfitano’s cross found Long with space in the area, and his header had Cech scrambling across his goal-line, the ball rebounding back into play off the foot of the post.
Shortly afterwards Gareth McAuley threatened, beating Cech to a Brunt cross but heading high, and so after two aerial warnings it was perhaps not surprising to see West Brom equalise. McAuley rose highest at a corner, bringing a superb reflex save from Cech, but much like our opener, defenders stood still and attackers acted, Long leaping highest and nodding in.
Mourinho responded typically quickly, bringing on Demba Ba for Lampard, putting him up front and moving Eto’o out to the left. Oscar, who had been at the centre of all the Blues had done well, dropped deep alongside Ramires.
The manager’s rapid changes often have the effect of producing a quick goal for his side, but today, it went the other way.
Branislav Ivanovic was bundled off the ball just inside the opposition half, legally according to Marriner, and while Chelsea appealed for a free-kick West Brom broke, working the ball inside to Sessegnon who found a yard of space and struck low past Cech, who seemed taken by surprise at the Benin man’s shot.
Juan Mata and John Mikel Obi were sent on as Mourinho gambled for a leveller, and it very nearly came after a spell of sustained pressure around the West Brom box. Eventually the ball bounced for Ivanovic to swivel and shoot, but Myhill produced a stunning reaction save to keep the Blues at bay.
Willian then headed over from close range, perhaps due to a slight nudge from behind by Ridgewell. Chances, and time, were beginning to slip away. Everybody as thrown forward, and Cahill, from a wide-right position crossed low into the area, but Ba was just unable to connect and the ball went loose.
Four minutes of injury time were indicated, but it was West Brom who almost nicked a third when Brunt broke clear, but he shot over and Chelsea would get one more chance. The away side were camped inside their own box ,but Ramires slipped between two defenders and was fouled by Steven Reid, and Marriner awarded a penalty. Remonstrations followed, but after a delay Hazard kept his composure to side-foot home and bring what could prove to be a valuable point.
Players now depart for international duty before our next game on November 23, away to West Ham United.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta (Mikel 72); Ramires, Lampard (Ba 63); Willian, Oscar (Mata 72), Hazard, Eto’o.
Unused subs Schwarzer, Cole, David Luiz, De Bruyne.
Goals Eto’o 45, Hazard (pen) 90+5
Booked Lampard 14
West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Amalfitano (Popov 88), Sessegnon (Morrison 80), Brunt (c); Long (Anichebe 78).
Unused subs Daniels, Vydra, Dawson, Berahino.
Goals Long 60, Sessegnon 67
Booked Yacob 28, Long 45+2, Amalfitano 82, Ridgewell 90+4
Referee Andre Marriner