When a draw feels like a defeat
By Ines Barbosa
21:57 p.m at The Hawthorns and the game just ended 1-1. Ivanovic scored for Chelsea just before halftime and Victor Anichebe scored a late equalizer on the 87th minute, stealing two precious points from José Mourinho's side.
This doesn't mean the Special One has lost the league, no - but it does mean that it all has become much harder once again. This year's Premier League has been very competitive - maybe the most competitive of these past few years - so even an advantage of one point was incredibly important and Mourinho has probably lost it tonight.
As a Chelsea fan, it was hard to know that we lost that edge; still, it was harder to watch 96 minutes of a game that lacked emotion, personality and the tactical excellence I saw last week against Manchester City. Maybe José should have let team masseur Billy McCulloch give the half-time pep-talk once again.
As far as I'm concerned, I didn't like this match one bit - it very much reminded me of the one Chelsea played against West Ham just a few weeks ago; everyone remembers Mourinho criticising Sam Allardyce's tactics and calling it "19th century football" and I was watching West Brom tonight and thinking that this was almost that same style, maybe a little evolved, but still very much capable of neutering Chelsea's attacks and tactic, for the most part.
If I had to choose the best Chelsea player tonight I'd say Willian, for the way he tried to build a consistent game and for the opportunities he created. Hazard was also good (Isn't he always), but lacked his usual brilliance; the defenders were efficient when they needed to be, for the most part (with the obvious exception of Anichebe's goal); Oscar and Ramires didn't play bad either. Eto'o and Torres couldn't do much with what they were given and Salah probably came on too late... I could go on and on in this same fashion because there is not much to say. It wasn't that Chelsea played really bad - they just seemed sort of numb against the other side's strategy. And that can't happen when it's crucial that you secure every bit of a lead you have over your competitors.
Victor Anichebe's was only the second goal Chelsea conceded in 2014 - ironically, it couldn't have come at a worst time, both in this match in particular, and in general. Tonight the Blues had to win; every game right now will dictate your final position on the table and two points make all the difference. That's why this draw feels so much like a defeat: not only because the top spot may not be ours anymore in a few short hours, but mostly because that magnificent Chelsea team I watched just last week seems to be gone in the wind. A team that knows how to play like that against one of its strongest contenders couldn't have gone down like this against the 17th team in the league.
Yes, a lot happens in football, and yes, a draw might be better than a defeat, but this is still not good enough at all. And there's no other way to say it: this one was a completely dull game, and those were 96 minutes of my life I'm not getting back. Maybe, instead of being so good at mind games and provoking the other team's managers, Mourihno should figure out a way to beat his consistently beat his opponents.