In a game of twisting and turning fortunes in which Pedro Rodíguez was one of the stars, Thibaut Courtois saved a penalty when the game was still scoreless.
Jose Mourinho‘s men then found the net twice in 10 minutes, both good goals, but the lead was pegged back to 2-1, only to then be stretched to 3-1 with a rare goal from our left-back shortly before half-time.
The three strikes from Spain internationals had set the Blues well on course for victory but the balance was titled again when John Terry was sent-off early in the second half for denying a goalscoring opportunity. James Morrison netted his second of the game for West Brom not long after to turn the pressure up but Chelsea held firm, and not without creating further chances of our own.
The first win of the season brings to an end a run of four games without victory on this ground.
Pedro, signed during the week, went straight into the team, playing on the right with Willian mostly occupying a central position behind Diego Costa and Eden Hazard on the left. Half-time substitute at Man City, Kurt Zouma, retained his place and with Terry starting, it was Gary Cahill among the subs.
The full-backs and central midfield pairing were the familiar four. Baba Rahman was not among the subs and will have to wait a little longer for his Chelsea bow.
For West Brom there was no Saido Berahino, who scored twice in this fixture last season and is subject to transfer speculation, so the home side’s attack was led by their new record signing from Venezuela, Salomon Rondon. With James McClean and Callum McManaman also starting, it was same side that completed their previous match, a 0-0 draw at Watford.
The Blues, wearing the new black third kit which was only unveiled on Friday, were tested in the fourth minute by a Craig Dawson cross but Courtois successfully punched the ball away over the top of McClean.
Quickly up the other end, Diego Costa found space but dragged a shot across goal and wide. He had earlier been the recipient of a through-the-back challenge by Jonas Olsson. Advantage was played on that occasion but referee Mark Clattenburg later had words with the West Brom defender.
A good spell of keep-ball from Chelsea around the home side’s area resulted in a Hazard run and cross but it was cleared comfortably, so the first 10 minutes passed without a shot on-target at either end.
Rondon drilled wide for the Baggies with the offside flag raised before on 14 minutes, Tony Pulis’s side were presented with a gilt-edged chance to take the lead from the penalty spot.
Courtois, back in goal following a one-game suspension, had other ideas. He had shown his penalty-saving abilities well in pre-season and this time the Belgian diverted the attempt over the bar with his leg, although he was aided by Morrison’s decision to send the shot straight down the middle.
The spot-kick was conceded by Nemanja Matic for a foul on James McManaman and the Serbian was booked for another challenge on the winger soon after.
Craig Dawson headed the resulting free-kick over as August rain continued to pour down but matters were soon to become a whole lot brighter for the Blues.
Our opener came courtesy of a move that cut through the heart of the Baggies defence. Pedro was involved outside the area and made a quick swap of passes with Hazard to set him facing and moving towards goal. Olsson was still in the way but with dispatched with a little sideways dart, followed by the most precise of shots low inside the post. It was a great way to announce your arrival in the Premier League.
‘Are you watching Manchester?’ sang the Chelsea fans and there was even more reason to herald the signing as he played a big part in the second goal.
It was the Spain World Cup winner who was found in space on the right by Willian as Chelsea broke rapidly from the back. Pedro played the ball diagonally into the middle and Diego Costa had judged his run perfectly. Just onside, he fired in first time from six yards out.
Half-an-hour had been played and by now, Chelsea were exposing flaws in the West Brom set-up when we pushed forward. McClean was booked for a foul on Pedro. However there was enough menace about Pulis’s team when they attacked to suggest they had a goal in them.
That was proven 10 minutes before half-time when they cut the deficit through Morrison, who scored with a crisp drive after Rondon did well to hook back an over-hit cross.
Willian should have restored the two-goal lead but shot wide from a chance created by Pedro‘s close control but Azplicueta, from the other side of the area, did have the accuracy to make it 3-1 after latching onto Diego Costa‘s chest-down. There would have been a good case for a penalty anyway as our centre-forward battled to reach Fabregas‘s ball into the box, but that was made academic by Cesar’s low finish. The 3-1 lead was maintained for the remaining few minutes of the half.
The comfortable position Chelsea were in was shaken 10 minutes after the restart when Terry was dismissed.
The danger began with a well-directed long ball from Chris Brunt for Rondon to chase. Zouma couldn’t cut it out and it was too far ahead of Courtois for the keeper to collect. It was left to the skipper to challenge Rondon but a foul for what was adjuded a pull just outside the area was whistled and a red card shown. The West Brom manager admitted that might have been harsh in his pre-match conference.
Cahill, masked to protect his nose injury, came on to restore defensive numbers with Willian withdrawn but West Brom cut the deficit to 2-3 with just under an hour played. Morrison was the scorer, his second of the game. His flicked header onto a cross was well-placed and out of Courtois‘s reach, finding the top corner.
Diego Costa, on the run, smashed a shot wide from another good Pedro ball in Chelsea’s best attack since going down to 10 men. Matic had earlier had a free-kick saved. At the other end, Rondon hooked a shot wide to the home crowd’s frustration.
McManaman received the Baggies’s second yellow card for kicking the ball away after a whistle but showed a better side of his game moments later, making space inside Ivanovic and shooting a whisker wide.
It was tense for Chelsea – the dismissal had altered the balance of the game – but there could have been relief had Diego Costa not shot wide from a beautiful Fabregas ball. Falcao came on to play up front moments later. The Colombian soon had a half-chance but scuffed it as he fell.
Pedro‘s hugely impressive debut came to a close with six minutes left on the clock when he made way for John Mikel Obi.
There was plenty of defending for Chelsea to do inside the final 10 minutes but we were crafting the more clear-cut chances. Hazard will have been disappointed with his shot having done everything right following a great Matic pass.
Brunt blasted narrowly over the Chelsea bar from distance and it felt the win was within reach. Five minutes stoppage needed to be negotiated but when Courtois blocked a shot from the muscular Rondon at his near-post, and then plucked a high-ball assuredly from the air, the three points were ours.
- Match stats:
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry , Azpilicueta; Fabregas, Matic; Pedro ( Mikel 84),Willian ( Cahill 60), Hazard; Diego Costa (Falcao 77).
Scorers Pedro 20, Diego Costa 30, Azpilicueta 43
Sent-off Terry 55
Booked Matic 17
West Brom (4-5-1): Myhill; Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt; McManaman (Gnabry 77), Morrison Gardner 88), Fletcher (c), Yacob, McClean; Rondon.
Unused subs Rose, Chester, Lescott, Anichebe, Lambert.
Scorer Morrison 36, 59.
Booked McClean 37, McManaman 71.
Referee Mark Clattenburg
- Match report by chelseafc.com
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