MATCHES such as this show why fears are rising that the Premier League title race could become one long Chelsea lap of honour. Their latest outing was never a contest, just a parade of power and style. They have now won 10 and drawn two of their 12 league matches this season, racking up points at an ominous rate. The other so-called title challengers need to find consistency soon or it will be too late.
As for West Bromwich Albion, they presented themselves for kick-off on time but that was pretty much all they got right in a first half when the result was effectively decided, although Ben Fosterâ€™s constant saves stopped the scoreline from testifying to the true extent of the home teamâ€™s superiority. The Baggies tightened up admirably in the second period, by which time they were down to 10 men due to the expulsion of Claudio Yacob, but that was partially because Chelsea eased off.
The hosts corralled the visitors into one end of the pitch from the opening seconds and did not relent until their opponents had abandoned all hope of winning a point. Which was around about half-time.
â€œThe first half was brilliant, beautiful,â€ said JosÃ© Mourinho. â€œOur football was high quality, another dimension. We were playing so well, so fast, so fluid. We made the pitch very wide and created spaces to play inside and scored two goals. We should have scored much more than that. It was fantastic.â€
It really was. Chelsea hogged possession with purpose, probing mischievously from the outset and spreading panic amid the visitors. Yacob managed to curtail one attack in the fifth minute but was too flustered to do anything with the ball other than boot it behind for a corner. Chelsea took it short, Eden Hazard fizzed the ball across the face of goal and John Terry tried to poke it into the net, bringing the first of Fosterâ€™s many saves.
The goalkeeper was by far Albionâ€™s busiest player, with many of the others acting like puzzled bystanders as Chelsea breezed between them. But he was helpless in the 11th minute when Oscar clipped a cross over to Diego Costa, who, as the defenders appealed justifiably for offside, killed the ball on his chest before finishing in typically deadly fashion from 12 yards.
Soon Foster had to excel again, pushing away an Oscar shot with one hand after the Brazilian had been left free on the edge of the area to receive a pull-back from Hazard. Foster had to scramble to his feet to prevent Costa from scoring on the rebound, no defender having anticipated the problem.
After Chelseaâ€™s last Premier League home match, against QPR, Mourinho had complained that the subdued atmosphere made it seem like supporters were sleeping; here, the Albion manager, Alan Irvine, could have levelled similar complaints at his defenders in the first half. At least Chris Baird had an excuse for looking out of his depth. He was making his first Premier League start for 658 days following injury and loss of form and his rustiness was exposed by Branislav Ivanovic in the 19th minute when the Serb raced past him and crossed for Costa, who shot inches wide.
Albion were guilty of more doziness in the 25th minute, when Hazard was allowed to receive a short corner from Cesc FÃ bregas and fire the ball into the net from close range, Craig Gardnerâ€™s attempted block coming too late to be successful.
The way things were unfolding made a repeat of Chelseaâ€™s 6-0 win in 2010 a strong possibility. Especially when Yacob was sent off for what can only be described as a pogo-tackle â€“ the midfielder jumped with two feet into a challenge with Costa and although he landed on the ball, the referee, Lee Mason, deemed it dangerous, a decision that Irvine agreed was â€œunderstandableâ€.
Enjoying numerical superiority on top of a lead that was palpably insurmountable, Chelsea players began to showboat, Oscar drawing another save from Foster with a backheeled shot from seven yards.
The home side should have been farther in front before the break as the Albion defence dissolved every time the hosts turned up the heat. FÃ bregas prodded a pass straight through the middle of them in the 40th minute, allowing Ivanovic to rush on to it and, as Foster advanced, knock the ball sideways to Azpilicueta. The pass was fractionally too long for the Spaniard but the fact that both of Chelseaâ€™s full-backs had got behind the defence in the box spoke volumes. Nemanja Matic enjoyed similar freedom in the opening minutes of the second period but directed a volley over the bar from 10 yards after being fed by FÃ bregas.
With an important Champions League tie to play at Schalke on Tuesday, Chelsea relaxed a little, though Foster had to maintain his vigilance to thwart Hazard and Costa again. In the end Irvine could claim a degree of satisfaction from avoiding a massacre.
The supporters did their best to keep the atmosphere buzzing until full-time but Chelseaâ€™s contentedness with their lead and Albionâ€™s inability to do anything about it meant the game had an almost non-event feel by the end. – The Guardian