Premier League: Chelsea 1 West Brom 0
By Football News
A first-half goal from Demba Ba gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over West Brom on Saturday to relieve some of the pressure on manager Rafa Benitez.
In a game that the home side controlled from start to finish, Chelsea opened the proceedings courtesy of a well-worked corner in the 28th minute.
David Luiz headed an Oscar delivery back across the face of goal, and former Necastle man Ba was there to put the Blues deservedly ahead.
Chelsea continued to control the game and, despite proving unable to further capitalise on their dominance, they saw out the game comfortably, except for a couple of late saves from the largely untested Petr Cech.
Benitez made wholesale changes from the side that overcame Middlesbrough in the FA Cup on Wednesday, as Cesar Azpilicueta, Luiz, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Demba Ba all returned to the starting 11.
The away side, meanwhile, made a couple of enforced changes from the side that beat Sunderland 2-1 last Saturday as, with Romelu Lukaku unable to play against his parent club and captain Chris Brunt injured, Marc-Antoine Fortune and Graham Dorrans stepped into the team.
Chelsea had the better of the opening proceedings and were almost ahead after just three minutes when Oscar went close, only to be denied by a smart Ben Foster save.
Aside from a long-range Steven Reid free kick that Petr Cech tipped over, the home side managed to control the early stages as Oscar and Ba both missed opportunities to break the deadlock.
Eventually though, Chelsea's goal arrived and it was courtesy of a cleverly-worked short corner.
After a Luiz free kick was tipped wide by Foster, Oscar received the ball short from the ensuing set-piece and whipped a ball towards the back-post.
Luiz was there to head the ball back across the goal, finding Ba on the edge of the six-yard box to put the home side deservedly ahead after 28 minutes.
After seeing out the remainder of a testing first half, West Brom's second half continued in much the same vein as Chelsea dominated the opening 15 minutes, albeit without really testing Foster.
The game took a contentious turn with an hour gone as there were vehement claims for a penalty after Jonas Olsson appeared to bring down Hazard in the area.
The referee deemed it a fair challenge though and Chelsea continued to search for a potentially decisive second goal.
Oscar went closest to putting his side further ahead with around 15 minutes remaining as he was denied twice in quick succession by Foster.
Cech was tested twice in a matter of minutes late on as substitute Peter Odemwingie forced him to tip over from a free-kick, before he then palmed a goal-bound Azpilicueta header over and away.