Frank Lampard’s Blues escape the Hawthorns with a point after a disastrous set of errors that cost Chelsea 3 early goals in the first half. Chelsea started with Willy Caballero in goal and Thiago Silva as captain. Andreas Christensen returned after 2 match suspension to the side for Kurt Zouma who has seemingly been left out of the lineup for unknown reasons. Marcos Alonso returned as left-back with Reece James also returning to the side in place of Azpilicueta. N’golo Kante and Mateo Kovačić manned the midfield with Havertz slightly ahead of the pivot duo as the number 10.
Chelsea started bright on the ball breaking between the lines with ease and linking up well on the right hand side. This caused some trouble for the Baggies early in the first couple of minutes before a Marcos Alonso blunder left Chelsea 1-0 in a blink of an eye. The Spanish fullback gave away a lackadaisical header in the path of Matheus Pereira who slotted a pass to Callum Robinson on the edge of the box. Robinson converted with ease and gave West Brom the lead in 5 minutes. Chelsea immediately tried to retaliate by overloading the right-wing channels and putting in dangerous balls from Reece James. His powerful passes almost saw the Blues score twice as both Tammy and Timo missed sitters inside the box. Frank Lampard’s side looked somewhat convincing on the ball but also sloppy in the process.
Poor misleading passes led to easy transitions for the home side and left us vulvernable on the counter. Right when you thought Chelsea were back in the game, another individual error cost Chelsea a goal. Thiago Silva’s poor touch in our own half gave Callum Robinson another gifted opportunity on the break. Shortly after on a West Brom corner, the Blues fall asleep once again and let Kyle Bartley score a tap in on the far left corner of our defense. Marcos Alonso’s man was unmarked as he was caught ball watching and let Bartley get out of sight to put West Brom up 3-0 in less than 30 minutes.
After the third goal, Chelsea looked completely shell shocked and became more passive on the ball. Their inconsistent passes increased our turnovers even further allowing West Brom to hurt us on sloppy mistakes in our own half. By half time, Frank Lampard made two instant substitutions for Marcos Alonso and Mateo Kovačić. The Croatian midfielder was one of the many culprits in the first half who gave the ball countless times to the opposition. Cesar Azpilicueta was deployed at left-back and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the wings. The formation changed to a 4-3-3 with N’golo Kanté as the lone DM and Mason Mount and Kai Havertz alongside the Frenchman. Both attacking midfielders tucked in narrowly at times to find spaces between the lines as Timo and Tammy pushed up the field. Timo Werner had a quiet second half and barely got on the ball due to the compact defensive blocks Slaven Bilic’s set up. In the 55th minute, Azpilicueta layed off a good ball to Mason Mount who found room right outside the box to score Chelsea’s 1st goal and relay the comeback.
Throughout the match, West Brom assigned more of their players behind the ball making it difficult to break their defense and frustrated Chelsea as the game progressed. The Blues were resilient in their build up play despite their inefficient passes in the final third. A good linkup play between Callum Hudson-Odoi and Kai Havertz allowed Hudson-Odoi to square off a shot from 15 yards and blast it into the bottom right corner. This goal cut the West Brom lead to only 1 with 20 minutes to go. Frank made his final substitution for Thiago Silva in the 73rd minute that brought on Olivier Giroud for more attacking threat. This as consequence, disrupted Chelsea’s fluid attacking build up play and made it difficult to get the ball inside the West Brom half. The Baggies won almost every aerial ball and attempted to hurt Chelsea in quick transitions. Lampard shaped his side to a back 3 throughout our build-up phase by only having 3 players as our defense, (Andreas Christensen, Azpilicueta and N’golo Kante). Chelsea flooded players forward to get the West Brom backline out of shape and having his players overload the wide areas.
Slaven Bilic instructed his team to to be narrow between the middle and on their flanks by denying the cross from either side. Hudson Odoi’s dynamic dribbling ability got him past several defenders and tried to get balls inside the box. In what seemed like an expected loss, Chelsea were able to get the late equaliser in stoppage time with Tammy Abraham pouncing a tap in right in front of West Brom keeper. Callum Hudson-Odoi lifted a dangerous cross inside the dangerous area which diverted to Mason Mount who lined up a low strike on goal. Sam Johnstone managed get a hand on the ball but to West Brom’s unfortunate luck, the rebound fell to Tammy Abraham who was lurking on the corner of the box behind the West Brom defenders and managed to stay onside for the equaliser.
After a disastrous first half, Chelsea will go home scratching their heads in why they were put in the predicament in the first place. Lampard pinpointed lapses of concentration and grave mistakes by his players in the post-match conference. If Lampard is responsible enough, he will have to share large portions of the blame for starting Alonso over Azpilicueta and Chilwell who all seemed fit to start. His midfield tactics also played a huge part in why the Blues looked unprotected on the counter and will have to address this if they wish to be a stronger side. Their next fixture is Tottenham away as they look to advance in the next round of the Carabao Cup.