West Bromwich Albion 2-1 Chelsea

AVB’s short and not very sweet 257-day reign came to an abrupt end on March 4th earlier this year. The killer blow was the loss to West Brom, proving to be the final straw for a patient Mr Abramovich.

Di Matteo himself has been in the job 257 days yesterday, but on the 258th, the same opponents struck again. After a shaky few weeks, the manager’s future will certainly not have hinged on this opponent again, but it might go a long way to structuring it.

A opprobrious draw sees Chelsea go from first place with a healthy four-point gap to a dismal third within a matter of weeks, as Torres once again divided opinion in a make-shift Chelsea line-up that indicated attention had already turned to Juventus mid-week.

Chelsea’s starting line-up, consisting of Azpilicueta, Bertrand and Romeu, was the eighth youngest in club league history, but whilst youth may suggest pace, trickery and skill, so too does it hint at complacency, inexperience and lack of composure.

And how that showed before we had even reached double figures. An Albion attack down the left was not marked sufficiently, and when Morrison sent the ball into the box, Long easily evaded a half-hearted Luiz, to nod home.

It once would require the old faces of Drogba, Lampard, Cole and Terry to reignite the belief once the side had gone behind, but could this new group galvanise together, and quickly?

It was left to Sturridge and Torres to try to pull the Blues back, with this game being the first time since the 4-1 loss to Liverpool last season that Chelsea started with the duo, and it was not surprise why, with neither linking up well.

Shane Long, however, was having no problems linking up with his team-mates, and were it not for a few inches, one could have become two as Chelsea were frighteningly exposed.

But Eden Hazard, who was awarded a central role with Mata rested, got the Blues back. Since his summer arrival, his feet have done much of the talking, but this time it was his head which pulled the European Champions back.

Hazard heads home

The last time Di Matteo was in this tie, he was on the end of a 6-0 drubbing as Baggies’ boss, but his former colleague in Steve Clarke would show no mercy this time round.

The hosts took the lead once again just after the restart, with Odemwingie scoring the game’s third headed goal, after getting the better of Ryan Bertrand.

Could Chelsea show the spirit they possessed against Shakhtar Donetsk? Or would the game fizz out like a deflating balloon?

The answer was the latter. Hopeful punts by Mikel and Sturridge was enough to convince Di Matteo that emergency action was needed, with Torres and Romeu coming off for Oscar and Mata, just after the hour mark.

Would that be the start of the comeback? Mata indeed had found Sturridge twice in good positions, and Chelsea did have large chunks of possession, but to no avail.

A penalty shout was dashed by Michael Oliver, who Chelsea have never lost — or indeed conceded a goal — with the Northumberland official in charge.

Boas Myhill, who has never beaten Chelsea himself, was determined to make sure there was a first for everything, denying Sturridge after he had been sent clear.

As time wore on, it looked more and more unlikely Chelsea would find an equaliser, let alone a winner.

That could have been so different had Sturridge shown more composure with 86 minutes on the clock, blasting wide when one-on-one with the West Brom goalkeeper.

Even Cech tried to save the day with a corner deep into stoppage-time, but it was not to be, and should this drab form run into the Juventus game and next week’s league meeting with Manchester City, what was such a nice adventure for Di Matteo thus far might have turned a little sour.

Match Stats

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