West Brom 2 Chelsea 3: Jose Mourinho refused to blame Chelsea captain John Terry for his sending-off in the club’s narrow win over West Brom and instead the Paranoid One vowed to continue coaching his players to expect to be reduced to 10 men.
Chelsea looked set for a comfortable victory after debutant Pedro opened the scoring for the visitors and Diego Costa doubled their advantage. James Morrison reduced the deficit for the first time only for Cesar Azpilicueta to swiftly restore it - all inside the first half. Terry got his marching orders on 54 minutes and Morrison struck again, five minutes later, to set up an anxious finish for the Blues.
But Terry, who was hauled off at half-time last weekend due to a lack of pace, was not at fault for his dismissal, according to his manager, despite being outrun by Solomon Rondon and appearing to drag the striker down inside the box.
“I don’t blame John,” Mourinho said after his side’s second red card of the season. “It’s a ball into space behind the full-back. The full-back is pressing high. The striker makes the movement and then the referee decides a red card.
“I have to do what’s in my hands, which is to train. We have to train 11 against 10. We have to do it. 10 men when you are winning. 10 men when you are losing. 10 men chasing a result, 10 men defending a result. And the difference between today and Swansea was exactly that.”
Tony Pulis’s side should have been ahead after 13 minutes. Gareth McAuley cut inside from the left flank and, after Azpilicueta had cautiously backed off, Nemanja Matic lunged in to upend the defender inside the box. Morrison took the spot-kick and, although his effort was as precise as he could have wished for, arrow-straight down the centre of the goal, Thibaut Courtois connected with a flailing leg to deflect the ball over the bar.
Chelsea then punished them with the opener after 20 minutes. Eden Hazard crept through the hitherto solid West Brom defence and jabbed the ball through to debutant Pedro who quickly took aim and then watched the ball ricochet off Jonas Olsson and sneak beyond goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.
Just 11 minutes after Pedro’s goal he claimed an assist. Chris Brunt delivered a fine corner but a Terry clearance turned into a break of phenomenal pace, the ball switching from Willian to Pedro and finally into Costa who tapped home to double Chelsea’s lead.
The champions remained fragile down the flanks, especially right-back Branislav Ivanovic, and they soon conceded their sixth goal of the season. Brunt clipped a sublime ball through the Chelsea defence that James McClean ran onto and dug out a looping cross that seemed set to elude everyone. But somehow Rondon acrobatically volleyed to the edge of the area where Morrison was ready to make amends for his penalty with a sweet strike that ripped through the Chelsea bodies protecting their goal-line.
Chelsea grabbed their third three minutes before the break. Matic dinked the ball onto the chest of Costa who guided back to Azpilicueta off his chest. The Spanish full-back demonstrated all the poise of a striker by passing the ball into the goal through a host of West Brom legs.
Chelsea emerged from their half-time meeting in control but threw away any sense of serenity they may have felt when Terry got his marching orders.
Rondon chased down a hopeful ball and slaughtered the centre-back for pace until a clumsy tangle earned West Brom a free-kick and Terry an early exit.
Just five minutes after Terry’s ignominious exit, Pulis’ men were back on the scoresheet.
Once again Ivanovic was made to look amateur as Dawson and Callum McManaman combined to get a cross in and Morrison had acres of space to head his side back into contention. But that was as close as West Brom came.
The match could have begun very differently if spot-kick specialist Saido Berahino was in the side and not jettisoned due to an ongoing transfer saga that left Pulis vexed.
“Why are we talking about Saido?” Pulis growled. “Because of the transfer window. It’s absolutely ridiculous. For it to be going through the start of the season is ridiculous.”
Despite escaping with three points when fewer looked likely, Mourinho will not be trying his luck any further with an appeal against his captain’s dismissal.
“Normally, it’s a waste of time for us,” he said. “I think we should but normally it’s a waste of time.”
Myhill 6, Dawson 7, McAuley 7, Olsson 7, Brunt 6; Yacob 6, Morrison 7 (Gardner 88, 4), Fletcher 6, McClean 6 (Lambert 60, 5), McManaman 7 (Gnabry 76); Rondon 7.
Courtois 6; Ivanovic 5, Zouma 6, Terry 4, Azpilicueta 7; Matic 6, Fabregas 7; Pedro 8(Mikel 84, 4), Willian 7 (Cahill 56, 5), Hazard 7; Costa 7 (Falcao 76, 5).
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