Antonio Conte’s Chelsea returned from the international break in style with a resounding 4-0 thumping of Tony Pulis’ struggling West Bromwich Albion side at the Hawthorns. With a crucial period of domestic and European football on the horizon for the Blues, they will have been delighted with their performance in a notoriously tricky fixture.
David Luiz remained sidelined for the Blues, although the problems between the Brazilian and his manager seem to have subsided – for the time being at least, with Luiz named amongst the substitutes in the West Midlands. Conte named an unchanged side from the team that dispatched of Manchester United last time out and with a fully fit N’Golo Kante running the show, the Blues looked to have a far more balanced appearance – both in attack and defence.
Baggies provide early scare but soon falter
The Baggies’ recent struggles have been well documented but the home side started well and had the ball in the back of the net through a Salomon Rondon header after five minutes, which Thibaut Courtois inexplicably let through his grasp – only to see the linesman’s flag come to the rescue for the Blues.
From that moment on, Chelsea began to establish a firm foothold of the game and, after 17 minutes, got the goal their play deserved. Eden Hazard, still aggrieved from a hefty challenge two minutes earlier, wriggled away from Gareth Barry to unleash a fizzing strike at goal; Ben Foster could only parry and Alvaro Morata swept home with ease, for his second goal in as many games.
It didn’t take long for the Blues to double their lead – with a passage of play befitting of last season’s champions. Cesc Fabregas’s pinged ball was flicked around the corner by Morata for Hazard to run onto; the Belgian burst past the onrushing Ben Foster and slid the ball into an empty to give the Blues a comfortable lead with only 23 minutes played.
Chelsea seal victory before the break
The pressure didn’t relent and the Baggies experienced backline looked shell-shocked and once again the pressure told. Ahmed Hegazi, who struggled with Morata and Hazard all game, scythed down the Spaniard on the edge of the box and Chelsea made them pay from the resulting set-piece. Cesc Fabregas’s far-post delivery was met on the volley by Marcos Alonso who smashed home with his left foot for his third goal of the season, which effectively killed the game as a contest before halftime.
Tony Pulis cut a forlorn figure on the touchline whilst Antonio Conte’s trademark combination of animated actions and shouts from his technical area were out in full force.
The second half remained much the same as Fabregas, Hazard and Morata combined with ease to give the West Brom defence the runaround, and on 62 minutes, the icing was officially put on the cake. The impressive Fabregas picked out the lively Hazard, who twisted and turned away from the West Brom defence before firing past a hapless Ben Foster with his right foot to register his third league goal of the campaign.
Blues ease through final third
The remaining half hour gave Antonio Conte a chance to rest some of his key players with one eye seemingly on the crucial midweek trip to FK Qarabag in the Champions League.
The full-time boos resonated around the Hawthorns as the pressure on Tony Pulis appears to have reached boiling point, and things don’t get easier for them as they visit Wembley to face Tottenham next time out. Chelsea, meanwhile, have a massive week, with a trip to Azerbaijan followed up with a huge Premier League meeting with Liverpool at Anfield next Saturday afternoon.
Header image by Aleksandr Osipov (CC BY-SA 2.0), via Wikimedia Commons