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Victor Anichebe pegged back a Barclays Premier League high-flier for the second successive home match as West Bromwich Albion earned a 1-1 with Chelsea at the Hawthorns.
The Barclays Premier League leaders looked set to extend their advantage at the summit to four points after Branislav Ivanovic – as he did eight days ago at Manchester City – gave them a first-half lead.
But the Serbia defender's contribution would not prove decisive on this occasion as Saido Berahino's 87th-minute cross was glanced in by substitute Anichebe, who also ensured a share of the spoils when Liverpool visited The Hawthorns last weekend.
Arsenal and Manchester City can both leapfrog Jose Mourinho's team with wins in their respective games against Manchester United and Sunderland on Wednesday night, while West Brom edge out of the relegation zone ahead of the latter club on goal difference.
Thievy Bifouma marked his Baggies debut at Crystal Palace on Saturday with a goal less than a minute after coming on, and the on-loan Espanyol forward was rewarded with a first start, one of four changes made by Pepe Mel, facing up to a Chelsea defence still lacking John Terry due to a muscle strain.
There was little to unduly concern either backline in the opening 20 minutes, although Chelsea had established a controlled hold on possession. In the 22nd minute, Willian found Samuel Eto'o inside the area and his cutback was scrambled away from the onrushing Ivanovic by a combination of Gareth McAuley and goalkeeper Ben Foster.
West Brom grew impressively into the game and Chris Brunt fizzed a low drive wide after Bifouma failed to control Berahino's knockdown.
A succession of Chelsea corners came to nothing until their final set-piece of the half – in the third minute of stoppage time – was touched on by David Luiz and his defensive colleague Ivanovic slammed home unmarked.
Foster made a sharp stop from Eto'o when the former Barcelona striker collected Willian's 50th-minute through-ball.
The West Brom goalkeeper bettered that save as the hour approached, adjusting to keep out Willian's deflected shot after his defence backed away from the rampaging winger.
Eden Hazard beat the West Brom offside trap in the 68th minute and teed up Eto'o, but his final contribution before being replaced by Fernando Torres was to slash wide of the near post.
Emboldened by their visitors' profligacy, West Brom mounted considerable pressure in the final quarter of an hour – Bifouma and Brunt both pulling attempts off target from inside the area. McAuley then rose unmarked to meet Brunt's 81st-minute corner and could not direct his header downwards.
But the pressure told as Anichebe found a way through and, when Torres left the field at full-time amid a heated confrontation with Foster, it was indicative of Chelsea's feelings towards an opportunity missed.
West Brom head coach Pepe Mel: "I am very pleased. The players worked hard and were strong. If we scored the goal earlier, we would win the game.
"Chelsea were in front, for me today is a good day. The team were compact, good lateral movement and good dropping off. They pressed high and showed good mentality.
"1-1 against Everton, Liverpool and Chelsea. Now we need to win our next game. West Brom next season will be in the Premier League.
"The players need to win matches. It is good on the pitch when the match finishes and West Brom has won. We will go for warm weather training to Spain to work together and for tactics."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "In the last 20 minutes they put us under pressure and they scored a goal as a consequence. Maybe they deserved that point. A point is a point and at the end of the season we will see.
"I think the game for 60 minutes was completely in our hands, West Brom didn't put one foot in our box. We couldn't kill the game. We were comfortable in the game, maybe too comfortable. We didn't kill the game when we had the chance.
"In this moment we have one more point than before. If Arsenal and City win tomorrow they go above us but that is their job. Every game is difficult and every team needs points."
|22 Feb 2014||v Fulham (H)|
|08 Mar 2014||v Man Utd (H)|
|15 Mar 2014||v Swansea (A)|
|22 Mar 2014||v Hull (A)|
|29 Mar 2014||v Cardiff (H)|
|05 Apr 2014||v Norwich (A)|