West Bromwich Albion have been something of a bogey club for Chelsea in recent years. The Blues had lost the last two matches between the sides, and both Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo took charge of their final Premier League games against the Baggies. Rafa Benitez's midweek outburst led to strong speculation that, should Chelsea fail to win, there was every chance that it would be third time unlucky for the interim manager.
As it turned out, a Demba Ba goal after 28 minutes ensured that a match which many expected to be played amidst a tornado of hostility, was instead enjoyed in the same strange atmosphere which has surrounded Stamford Bridge since November.
Benitez has kept his job despite leaving John Terry out of the starting 11 for the second Premier League match in a row—Chelsea move back to third in the league table just ahead of the North London derby on Sunday.
Below are the ratings for Chelsea's starting 11 today. Every player starts on 5/10 and points are awarded or deducted based on attitude, work-rate and contribution to the game. A goal scored by a defender is weighted higher than one scored by a striker and red cards and missed penalties get an automatic 1.0 deduction.
Petr Cech 8/10
Cech made four good saves to keep Chelsea in control of the game, the best of which came from the very tips of his fingers to deny QPR reject Peter Odemwingie's long-range effort. His passing was only 44 percent accurate but his direct distribution found its man each of four times. He remained focused despite coming under increasing pressure in the final 15 minutes and was key to the victory.
Ashley Cole 7/10
Ashley Cole is a professional footballer in the strictest sense of the term. To him it is his a job and nothing else, and he is very good at his job. His passing accuracy was 93 percent and he made one successful tackle as the West Brom attack livened up in the second half. Cole's performance was quiet but efficient as he patrolled the left wing.
Branislav Ivanovic 7/10
Ivanovic's passing accuracy was 83 percent and four of his five clearances were successful. He managed to curb his marauding instincts to one dribble down the middle which led to a blocked shot at goal. As the more defensive-minded of the centre-backs, Ivanovic made two interceptions and one tackle as Chelsea kept their second successive clean sheet.
David Luiz 7.5/10
Despite playing at centre-half, David Luiz provided the assist for Demba Ba's goal when he baffled Ben Foster and headed the ball across the box for the striker to slot home. His passing was 79 percent accurate and he had two attempts on goal. Defensively, he was surprisingly solid, making four interceptions and five clearances. He also managed to kick the ball out of play and into the middle of the East Stand Upper, an impressive feat for a non-rugby player.
Cesar Azpilicueta 7/10
'Dave', as the Chelsea fans have dubbed him, has been the surprise package of the summer transfer splurge. He has consistently performed well on the right, and with a crossing accuracy of 75 percent to go along with two interceptions and four successful tackles, this match was no exception. Azpilicueta presents an excellent prospect for the future as Branislav Ivanovic makes the move to centre-half.
Ramires is the hardest-working box-to-box midfielder to grace the pitch at Stamford Bridge since Michael Essien in his prime. He never stops running, and his passes were 90 percent successful in this match. Defensively, he played deeper than his partner in the holding two and made four successful tackles and three interceptions whilst still creating chances for his teammates.
Frank Lampard 6.5/10
This was not Frank Lampard's finest match for Chelsea. He appeared uncharacteristically lost in the middle of the pitch—all three of his shots were off target. His passing was 88 percent accurate and he made one interception. With no news on an extension to his contract which expires in the summer, he appears to be losing hope that he will get the future at Stamford Bridge that he and the fans are seeking.
The Three Amigos were reunited after their midweek separation and they combined to produce some beautiful football. Oscar had seven shots on goal, four of which were on target, and he set up three chances for his teammates. His passing was 80 percent accurate and he made three interceptions and three tackles in an excellent performance by the attacking trio.
Eden Hazard 7.5/10
Despite only having one shot for himself, Hazard was the key in midfield with a 92 percent pass completion rate. He created two chances for his teammates and made three interceptions—however, committing four fouls landed him with a yellow card and an automatic 0.5 deduction from his overall score.
Juan Mata 7.5/10
It is a privilege to watch Juan Mata play football. In the least hyperbolic fashion possible, his skills are sublime, and his awareness allows him to pull off moves that look impossible at first glance. His shooting was not at his usual standard as he was unable to find the target with three attempts, but he created four chances and completed 89 percent of his passes.
Demba Ba 8/10
In Roberto Di Matteo's final Premier League game in charge of Chelsea, the reverse of this fixture, Fernando Torres was on the pitch for 60 minutes and failed to have a single shot at goal, on or off target.
Ba proved his credentials as a striker by bucking that trend with six attempts, four of which were on target. He was fouled four times, drawing set-pieces in dangerous areas and he found himself in possession in the box three times, scoring the only goal of the game in the process. He was completely unmarked when David Luiz's header cut back from the goal line towards him which he easily slotted home.
Overall, it was a more organised performance than Chelsea fans have become used to—everyone involved will be pleased that the furore surrounding the saga that this season has become was no worse than in recent weeks.