Returning from the international break, Chelsea might have been expected to take some time to regain their frightening momentum. Instead Jose Mourinho’s team steamrolled a poor West Bromwich Albion side from the off at Stamford Bridge, eventually running out far more comfortable winners than the 2-0 scoreline suggested to continue their seemingly inexorable march toward the Premier League title.
Goals from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard had Chelsea two goals to the good before Claudio Yacob earned a red card for a poor two-footed tackle on Costa, all before the half-hour mark had been reached. With a trip to Schalke on Tuesday, when there will be a chance to confirm their place in the last 16 of the Champions League, this was the ideal preparation for Mourinho and his side. The result could easily have been far more emphatic, but Chelsea could afford play out the last hour in complete comfort in the knowledge that the weekend would end with their four-point advantage atop the Premier League table at the very least preserved. Mourinho, this time, could have no complaints that the Stamford Bridge support followed his team’s lead in dropping their intensity in the second half. It was never going to prove costly on this occasion.
For a team set out to defend, West Brom were conspicuous by their inability to do just that. Had it not been for some fine saves by Ben Foster, the there could have been a true humiliation for a team that has now lost two matches on the bounce. By the fifth minute West Brom could already have been a goal down. John Terry scuffed a shot from six yards out but it still required some fine reactions from Foster to send the ball wide of the goal.
By the 11th minute, Chelsea were inevitably in front. Despite having a penalty box packed with defenders, West Brom allowed Costa complete freedom in the middle of it. With the minimum of fuss he chested down and volleyed home Oscar’s cross after a disastrous attempt to play offside that left the visiting team stationary, appealing for in vain for a flag. It was Costa’s 11th goal in 10 Premier League appearances, and one of his most straightforward.
The Spain international, given time to rest his troublesome hamstring during the international break, could have had at least a hat-trick by halftime. Foster did well to get up and deny him having just repelled an effort from Oscar, before Costa uncharacteristically poked wide from the middle of the six-yard box with the goal at his mercy from Branislav Ivanovic’s deflected cross. Costs saw another Ivanovic cross travel just behind him to deny what would have been a simple tap in, while, having again been played in behind a porous West Brom defense, Foster denied him once more.
By that point, Chelsea were already another goal up and a man to the good. The doubling of Chelsea’s lead came in the 25th minute, courtesy of some more atrocious defending. A corner was allowed to be rolled right into the heart of the penalty area for Hazard, who sidestepped the switched off Craig Garnder and then struck a left-footed shot that deflected off the midfielder and in off the already committed Foster. The contest was already effectively over, but confirmation of that fact arrived three minutes later. On his first Premier League start of the season, Yacob got plenty of the ball as he went into a challenge with Costa, but the jumping two-footed manner of it meant that a red card was the only justifiable decision.
For a time Chelsea still pushed to extend their advantage. But after Nemanja Matic scored a presentable chance on the volley from another superb pass from Oscar at the start of the second half, both teams sauntered toward the game’s inevitable conclusion.