Mar 3 2012 By Dan Levene
Andre Villas-Boas Image 2
West Brom 1-0 Chelsea
CHELSEA slumped to their first defeat to West Brom in 33 years, as they plumbed new depths under Andre Vilas-Boas (pictured).
Jim Callaghan was Prime Minister, and Danny Blanchflower Chelsea manager, when the Blues last succumbed to the Baggies: in March 1979.
Until today, Chelsea had not even surrendered a Premier League point to to their hosts – having won every encounter since 1993. Results like this, do not improve managers' job prospects.
Chelsea were unchanged from their 3-0 win over Bolton seven days ago. If there was any early initiative to be picked-up, the it was Petr Cech who did it: retrieving one of the 'throstle' mascots' detached tails from the pitch and handing it back to his feathered friend. Magpies are more known for their luck than throstles, so it can only have been pure agile skill that saw Cech keep out the best of the early chances: diving to top a top-corner-bound James Morrison 35-yard drive on 10 minutes. The hosts had the best of the chances in the opening half hour, though Juan Mata and Gary Cahill went close for Blues: the latter's shot being blocked in the box by Morrison. Chelsea should have took the lead just before the break when Didier Drogba, having one of his on/off matches, placed a beautiful ball into the box for Daniel Sturridge – advancing goal-ward like a train. The England man connected, but sent the ball just inches wide of the right hand post. The second half was no less frustrating: the heavyweight Chelsea midfield of Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Ramires looking anonymous. Villas-Boas tried to beef it up by taking of the ineffectual Sturridge, and replacing him with Florent Malouda – who immediately went out to the wide left, so that Mata could move inside. It was a move that produced little, so with 15 minutes to go Villas-Boas shuffled his pack again: taking off Essien for Fernando Torres – on a run of 21 games without a goal. Chelsea disintegrated further. A defensive corner saw the ball pingpong about the box. Cech got a palm to it, it went forward, backward, and to Liam Ridgewell: whose toe poke hit Gareth Mcauley on the shin – and gave the Baggies what was to be the winning goal. On full time the Blues Portuguese players disappeared down the tunnel in a flash: leaving a handful of Spaniards and Englishmen to approach the travelling support with applause. Two of Chelsea's next three games are effectively cup finals: against Birmingham in he FA Cup and Napoli in the Champions League. How can they stop what appears to be a growing rot? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest Chelsea news.