Chelsea vs. West Brom: Score, Grades and Post-Match Reaction
Okay, so it hasn't been an easy season for one of England's most storied football clubs, as Chelsea has struggled mightily all year long.
In fact, a matter of hours before the Blues' clash with West Bromwich Albion, former Newcastle and English international superstar Alan Shearer told BBC that the club (and the reported impending departure of manager Rafael Benitez) was "embarrassing."
But there's still much football to be played, and despite the club sitting a disappointing fourth place in the Premier League table, the Blues still should be able to clinch a Champions League berth. Their quest to do so continued on Saturday, against a surprisingly solid West Brom squad, who entered the match just three spots behind the Blues in the tables.
And it wasn't an easy match for the Blues, as they hung on for a 1-0 triumph over West Brom, bolstered by Demba Ba's early strike in the 28th minute, but it's an absolutely critical win nonetheless.
The fact that the match was a one-goal game is a true testament to how well Ben Foster played, as the keeper was peppered with shots all afternoon, with the Blues firing nine on target, with another 15 going wide.
With his second goal in a Chelsea uniform, Ba has made a case for himself to be considered one of the Blues' most dangerous offensive weapons, but that's partly due to the well-documented struggles of Fernando Torres.
In fact, Torres didn't even enter the match until the 88th minute, when he came on for Ba, which is indicative of the Spanish international's play as of late.
Now that the match is in the books, here's a look at how each team's top performers played on Saturday.
As one of West Brom's most potent offensive weapons, Long is expected to create opportunities, as well as capitalize on his chances when he's in position to strike.
But on Saturday, Long was absent—he failed to even generate a shot on goal—and that played a sizable role in why his squad was unable to emerge with a favorable result against one of the Premier League's (at least historically speaking) finest.
Simply put, Foster made a strong case for himself to be considered at least a contender to be England's next goalkeeper, as the 29-year-old stood on his head against the Blues, making eight saves in the process.
He's kept West Brom in a number of games they've had no business in being in, and if he continues to unroll performances like this, he'll be wearing a uniform with the three lions over the heart in the not-so-distant future.
Since coming over from Newcastle, Ba has been a breath of fresh air in the Blues' offense, and has been one of the squad's most reliable catalysts up front.
Sure, he hasn't necessarily found the back of the net as often as he did with Newcastle, but on Saturday, Ba showed the football world why he was such a hot commodity on the transfer market, and he was the difference maker for his club in an absolutely pivotal match.
GOAL: Demba Ba scores his second goal for Chelsea to give #CFC the lead against West Brom, reacting quickest after good work by David Luiz.— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 2, 2013
Following Ba's goal, BBC Sport was quick to credit his running mate.
And, as expected, some remained disappointed with Torres, regardless of how much he was on the pitch.
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