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West Bromwich Albion
West Ham United
March 2, 2013
• Stamford Bridge, London
Referee: K. Friend
• Attendance: 41548
D. Ba 28'
West Bromwich Albion
That'll be that then - a win saves Benitez for now at least, but the Stamford Bridge fans are certainly not happy with "The Interim One". I've been Tom J Doyle, and stick around with Goal.com for all the reaction from this game and the other big games today. Good bye for now.
What a finish to the game! That was much more difficult for Chelsea than it should have been, with Demba Ba's first-half strike enough to see Chelsea beat West Brom 1-0 and give Rafa Benitez something to momentarily smile about. The Baggies were abject but could've got something from the game with a little more bravery, but it's the hosts who take the points today.
90' + 5'
Foster gets a head to it, then tried a scissor kick! - Luiz clears but it falls to Olsson, who skies it from the edge of the area - and that's it!
90' + 4'
John Obi Mikel
90' + 4'
Late, late corner for West Brom...and Foster is up for it!
90' + 3'
Cech saves from Odemwingie! It's a great chance for the striker inside the box but his effort is too close to the keeper, who saves at his near post. If the visitors had done this 10 minutes ago they might be in this game.
90' + 2'
There's some panic in the Chelsea ranks here but Thomas handles the ball and the hosts get a free kick, much to Benitez's relief.
90' + 1'
Corner for the Baggies - can they provide a shock equaliser?
Lampard slides a pass in for Victor Moses who drives a ball across goal but Torres can't get to it to finish, and Lampard skies the resulting volley. Four minutes of injury time here.
Not long left now - Benitez desperately needs a win and it looks like he'll get it, but we still have injury time to come...
Demba Ba is coming off, with Fernando Torres given three minutes to impress. From £50million forward to time-wasting sub, it's a heck of a fall from grace.
Yellow Card Peter Odemwingie
Reid takes an awful throw-in in Chelsea's half which almost results in a goal for the hosts, but Ba is beaten to the ball by an onrushing Foster, who has been terrific today.
Close for the Baggies! The corner flies in and Azpilicueta heads the ball at his own goal, but Cech reacts quickly to push it away from danger. Great stuff from the Czech international today.
Cech denies Odenwingie! The striker lines up a free kick and curls in a great effort on goal - the keeper was moving in the opposite direction but got a hand to the ball to push it over.
Foster denies Oscar again! He wriggles through three or four challenges and drives a low effort across goal towards the bottom right-hand corner of the net but the keeper is down superbly to tip away the fine effort. It's been a great battle between the two out there.
Foster saves from Oscar! The Brazilian is free in the area and volleys an effort straight at the keeper from 16 yards out. It was a decent effort but he really should have scored.
West Brom have another corner here after Azpilicueta has to prevent a chance following a free kick floated in to the back post area - it almost looks as though the Baggies will get a penalty with two players on the floor, but Kevin Friend awards a free kick against Olsson.
It's straight against the wall from the Brazilian, and despite West Brom's awful display, there's still a chance at 1-0.
David Luiz has another opportunity with a free kick from 30 yards in a central position - this could be game, set and match...
Is there a comeback on the cards? The visitors get a second corner in as many minutes and Olsson heads over the bar. At least it's something for the Baggies fans to get excited about.
West Brom have a corner! Luiz blocks McAuley well to prevent him getting a head on the ball, and Mulumbu spoons the follow-up out for a throw-in. That pretty much sums up Albion's day so far.
Despite Chelsea's fine showing so far, Husmukh Kerai reports it's doing nothing for Benitez's standing in the eyes of the fans: "Can't make this up! 'JOSE MOURINHO!' sing the Chelsea fans as West Brom enjoy some possession. The ball then finds it's way to the feet of Benitez on the ouchline and the song is interrupted by another chorus of boos."
West Brom get some players forward here on the right and should create some form of opening, but Chelsea recover quickly and then counter-attack to win a corner. There is no dynamism in Albion's play - they've been abject today.
Yellow Card Gareth McAuley
West Brom are reakky struggling to build any passing moves of note, and Chelsea are looking dangerous on the break as Hazard draws a booking from Gareth McAuley with some blistering pace.
Peter Odemwingie comes on for the visitors - he'll be hoping for a better visit to west London than the last time, where he sat in QPR's car park before facing a long drive home to the Midlands with no deal struck.
The boos ring out at Stamford Bridge but this time they're for referee Kevin Friend as he refuses to give a penalty as Olsson barges Hazard over in the box to deny the winger a shot on goal. It was clumsy from the defender, but probably just about the right decision - but the next one will surely be a spot kick.
Oscar goes on a fine run and wins a corner, but it comes to nothing as the Baggies survive - the Brazilian is sensational on the ball at times.
Yellow Card Eden Hazard
It's not the first time in this game that Eden Hazard has gone in late on Liam Ridgewell, and he picks up a yellow card for another late challenge as the West Brom defender cleared the ball. A deserved caution there.
Ba goes close to a second! Again Chelsea are able to work a better angle on a corner which allows Oscar to curl a great ball in, and the striker can't quite get a chance to finish as Foster scrambles the ball clear. West Brom have to get going soon or this one will be over.
Now Ivanovic has the ball in the West Brom net after Chelsea take a quick free kick, but the referee Kevin Friend was still talking to Yacob about the initial foul. Will they get a proper one in the next few minutes?
Lampard tucks the ball home on the volley after being set up by Mata, but the Spaniard was correctly flagged offside and the England midfielder will have to wait for his 200th goal for the Blues.
Chelsea start the second half much as the ended the first, with all the possession and intent on grabbing the second goal. They look dangerous and completely at ease, with Ashley Cole effectively playing as a left winger.
We're back underway at the Bridge - can West Brom wake up and find a response today?
STAT ATTACK (via @OptaJoe) : "2 - Shane Long has scored a goal on each of his last two league starts against Chelsea. Dangerman." Will the striker get some decent service in the second 45 minutes?
A win would be the perfect tonic for Rafa Benitez and so far his players have risen to the challenge, but a goal for the visitors could make things very interesting in the stands.
That's half-time at Stamford Bridge, and Demba Ba's well-worked strike has given the hosts a deserved lead against a limp West Brom side. Steve Clarke will have some harsh words for his players, but the Baggies are still in it as long as they are only a goal behind.
One minute of stoppage time to play and West Brom should count themselves fortunate to only be a goal down - although only a great defensive header from Olsson stops Ba from having an easy finish.
Morrison launches a half volley precisely three miles over Cech's bar here - that's not pretty at all. Still, at least it was an effort from the Baggies, who have been woeful as the half has progressed.
STAT ATTACK (via @OptaJoe): 6 - Demba Ba has scored six Premier League goals against WBA, more than he has against any other club. Nemesis.
How are Chelsea not 2-0 up? Ridgewell and a team-mate get in vital blocks on goal-bound efforts from Oscar and Azpilicueta inside the area as the hosts turn up the pressure with half-time fast approaching.
Oscar has acres of space to line up a volley from a corner here but his well-struck effort deflects out of play off of a Baggies defender. The visitors need to work harder on defending these set pieces, which will be a huge frustration to Clarke.
Long and Fortune try to combine on the right wing but the striker's attempted pass to the midfielder is seen out for a goal kick by Lampard, who is getting back to do his defensive duties well this afternoon.
West Brom get their first real chance to counter here but Chelsea retain their shape quickly and regain possession - Shane Long has got a thankless task up front for the visitors.
Well, what have the Baggies got to offer now? They'll have to be far more adventurous to get back into this one as Chelsea will surely smell blood and want to close this one up while they have the momentum.
Assist David Luiz
Goal Demba Ba
BA SCORES FOR CHELSEA!!! Oscar and Mata neatly build the corner for the Brazilian to curl in a cross to the back post. FOster gets caught in no man's land and Luiz heads back across goal for Ba to volley in a simple finish for his second Premier League goal for his new side.
Foster saves! Luiz's effort takes a deflection off the wall and the keeper gets across well to tip the ball wide...
Free kick to Chelsea 25 yards out on the left here as Yacob fells Oscar - can David Luiz pull out another special effort?
Hazard almost scampers to a comical goal as nobody in the West Brom defence deals a deflected pass as it rolls into the path of the Belgian, but Foster is out to punt the ball clear at the last second as everybody chases it. A bit of playground football there to bring the memories flooding back...
Oscar launches a rocket at Foster's top corner from 25 yards out but it's well over - he's been involved in pretty much everything so far for the hosts, but he'll have to do better than that to break the deadlock.
It's not looking pretty for Benitez, according to Husmukh Kerai: "Stamford Bridges rises as one to belt out a chrorus of 'There's only on Di Matteo'. Rafa Benitez doesn't know where to look."
Ivanovic looks for Oscar with a long ball which the Baggies have to deal with, and the ball falls to Ba on the edge of the area. He winds up and lashes a shot with his left foot but it's straight at Foster - he's been busy so far.
Oscar heads straight at Foster! Mata finds himself on the right wing and cuts inside to float over a beauty of a cross that's begging to be rifled home, but the Brazilian's effort is meek and ends up with the English keeper. That's a waste.
The Baggies are moving the ball about confidently but haven't been able to fashion any chances from open play yet - we look set for an afternoon of good passing play, which is fine by me.
Eden Hazard catches Liam Ridgewell with a late tackle here - it seemed to be a genuine attempt from the Belgian to block the clearance, but he's lucky not to get a card there.
What a start we've had here - with all the talk before the game centering on Benitez, here's hoping the players keep this tempo up and make it a game to remember for the right reasons.
Great stop from Cech! Reid lines up a free kick 30 yards out and absolutely launches one straight down the centre, and the keeper does well to get a hand to the ball and tip it over the bar. That was a rocket from the defender.
And now Mata goes close! From the corner following Foster's save, the ball eventually loops up in the air and the Chelsea Player of the Year volleys a yard wide of the keeper's left-hand post on the turn. Superb technique from the Spaniard there.
What a chance for Oscar! Demba Ba is normally the man in the middle but he finds the Brazilian eight yards out with an inch-perfect low curling cross, but the youngster's half-volley is superbly tipped round the post by Ben Foster.
Rafa is stalking the touchline and obviously attempting to ignore the fans' reaction to him today, but things could get very, very ugly if Steve Clarke gets any points against his former club.
And we're underway! Can Chelsea overcome all the buildup to the game and get on with business against a strong West Brom side?
Husmukh Kerai reports on the seething reaction to Benitez at the Bridge: "A chorus of boos is drowned out by Chelsea's walk-on anthem as Rafa Benitez's emerges from the Stamford Bridge tunnel. You can feel the venom ready to pour down the stands though." Oh dear.
We're a few minutes away from kick-off (and the entrance of Benitez), and one particular sign reading 'The interim one' says perhaps more than anybody ever could about the sorry debacle concerning the Spanish manager.
STAT ATTACK (courtesy of our man at the Bridge Husmukh Kerai): If, or when, Roman Abramovich does give Benitez the boot, he will have sacked 4 out of the last 7 managers to win the Champions League.
So, 'captain, leader, legend' misses out for Chelsea as does the hapless Fernando Torres, while Romelu Lukaku cannot play against his parent club so Steve Clarke has opted for Shane Long to go it alone up top for the Baggies.
West Brom starting XI: Foster; Reid, McAuley, Olsson, Ridgewell; Yacob, Mulumbu; Fortune, Morrison, Dorrans; Long. Subs: Myhill, Jones, Tamas, Brown, Odemwingie, Thomas, Rosenberg.
Chelsea starting XI: Cech; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, David Luiz, Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Hazard, Mata, Oscar; Ba. Subs: Turnbull, Terry, Cahill, Bertrand, Mikel, Moses, Torres.
We've got the team news coming right up - and there's no John Terry for the hosts...
Good afternoon and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE commentary of Chelsea vs West Brom at Stamford Bridge. I'm Tom J Doyle (@TomJDoyle) and I'll be guiding you through this one as Rafa Benitez looks to strengthen his side's grip on a top four place - although from his controversial comments earlier in the week, he may not be able to hear himself over the fury of the home crowd...
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