A late strike from Victor Anichebe was enough to deny Chelsea a hard-fought victory at West Bromwich Albion. In what was a rather turgid affair, Jose Mourinho’s men almost ground out an ugly win at the Hawthorns. After a few half-chances for both sides, Chelsea waited until two minutes into first-half injury time to break the deadlock. Brazilian David Luiz flicked on a corner, which Branislav Ivanovic fired into the net. The West Brom players looked naturally deflated after having managed to contain Chelsea for so long.
However, an 87th minute header by Nigerian Anichebe from a cross by Saido Berahino was enough to deny Chelsea a hard-fought victory at West Bromwich Albion and leave Mourinho in frustrated mood on a night where he will know his side should have won. In contrast, West Brom manager Pepe Mel will take some solace for the manner in which his struggling side managed to keep them at bay for long periods.
Second-place Arsenal, currently two points behind Chelsea with a game in hand, could go top with a home victory over reigning champions Manchester United on Wednesday night. United’s cross-city rivals, Manchester City, entertain Sunderland and could go second if Arsenal slip up against the Red Devils. The match, which is a must-win for United if they are serious about securing a Champions League spot at the end of the season, will see former Gunner Robin van Persie return to face his old club. The Dutchman scored the winning goal when the two sides met earlier this season, must to the chagrin of the visiting Gooners. Van Persie will expect a red-hot reception when he returns to his old haunt.
Nevertheless, the fact Chelsea two points clear at the top of the Premier League is a real statement of intent from Mourinho, who only last week said his team were not equipped to mount a serious title challenge even after they won away to City. However, the Portuguese said more recently that he would be disappointed if his side did not win the title in his first season back in England. He even tried to enter into mind games with City boss Manuel Pellegrini when he questioned why City midfielder Yaya Toure was not sent-off at the weekend. However, the Chilean did not rise to the bait and instead claimed he was not interested in talking about Mourinho or his team.
Most pundits and bookmakers make City and Chelsea favorites to battle it out for the title, while Arsenal are expected to fall away as they often to around this time of year. However, pressure is mounting on Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger who is now close to nine years without winning any silverware. Furthermore, club record signing Mesut Özil will be looking to silence his critics after they highlighted his recent dip in form. Although Chelsea sit two points clear at the top of the table, the fact they were denied victory at West Bromwich Albion means Mourinho will see it as two points lost rather than a point gained.
By Robert Shepherd