Malouda Spares Villas-Boas Blushes

The first home match of the season, against opponents we always score against and beat, looked to be the perfect antidote after the stalemate against Stoke.

Chelsea lined up with Hilario replacing the injured Cech in goal, with Bosingwa continuing at right back, Alex and Terry in the middle with Cole on the left.

Ramires, Lampard and Mikel continued in the middle with Torres up front, Anelka to the right and Kalou on the left hand side, with Malouda dropping to the bench.

It wasn’t to be any antidote though, with West Brom starting very deep in order to frustrate us early on, and breaking quickly and looking to get Shane Long in behind Alex and Terry.

It took less than five minutes to unravel all of Villas-Boas plans for the day as a ball through the middle was dealt with poorly by Alex, who allowed West Brom to break through and Long took full advantage, holding off the Brazilian and slotting low past Hilario.

Stamford Bridge was shocked and so it seemed were the team, as heads dropped and play went awry. Most of the attacking play we made was slow and lethargic, whilst in contrast West Brom were able to threaten our box in 2-3 quick forward passes.

West Brom wanted it more, were winning the second balls and pressing our players into mistakes, with Kalou and Bosingwa guilty of sloppy passes more than most. Kalou eventually was hauled off in the 34th minute and replaced by Malouda.

Chelsea changed to a diamond formation and it almost paid immediate dividends however resolute West Brom defending again kept us out until the half drew to a close.

The second half started with no change in personnel, and for the first few minutes no real change in play with Chelsea still looking somewhat nervous.

Then Chelsea started to play a bit, and a couple of nice passages of play resulted in chances on goal, and eventually Anelka scored. Chelsea played into the box, Lampard went down on what seemed to be a penalty but the ref played on, the ball came to Anelka who slotted low past Foster, by way of a deflection.

The goal seemed to get the monkey off the players back and brought some life to Stamford Bridge, Villas-Boas was clearly pleased on the touchline, celebrating the goal as much as any supporter there.

West Brom were not finished though, and were still a danger on the break as Chelsea pressed forwards looking for a winner.

Drogba came on for Torres, and Ivanovic on for Alex leaving us no more subs for the 25 minutes. Villas-Boas had set out his team to win the game and win it they did, albeit leaving it very late.

In the 82nd minute Jose Bosingwa raced down the right touchline, ghosting between two defenders before putting in his best cross of the afternoon across the face of goal, finding Malouda at the far post who slotted home.

Stamford Bridge exploded, as much out of relief as celebration, and ten or so minutes later the match was over and the players and supporters rested that little easier.

It wasn’t a vintage performance, for long spells it was just like watching the team at the end of last season. Slow on the attack, devoid of ideas or spark, desperately lacking pace. Yet we won, and that is the most important thing right now.

Things will change, new players are already here and if you follow us on Twitter, you’ll know there’s rumours about about two more this week. On this performance, we’ll need them.

Villas-Boas explained why he took Kalou off so early post match, stating; “The change was us wanting to surprise the opponent in some way but it didn’t happen straight away, because the players were still suffering from anxiety.”

“The half-time talk was for the players to release themselves from the anxiety they were suffering because the public was anxious and the players were anxious, and we still had 45 minutes to play and anything can happen, and it did happen.”

The manager added; “Today it was a very emotional game, and the emotional part of the game was the main difference from the first half to the second half. In the first half we suffered a little bit with anxiety because we conceded the first goal too early, and we couldn’t express ourselves.”

“We have done good quality passing when we trained but we just couldn’t do it and this was much more due to a mental block. Then when you find the back of the net for the 1-1, the emotional impact on the opponent is tremendous and we felt very confident to search for the second goal, and we found it.”

Chelsea (4-3-3): Hilario, Bosingwa, Alex (Ivanovic 65), Terry (c), Cole, Ramires, Mikel, Lampard, Anelka, Torres (Drogba 59), Kalou (Malouda 34).

Goals: Anelka 52, Malouda 82
Booked: Lampard 33, Terry 89
Attendance: 41,091