A hugely controversial late penalty enabled Jose Mourinho to avoid suffering his first-ever home defeat in the Premier League, as Chelsea escaped with a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The Blues appeared to be cruising when Samuel Eto'o stole in to open the scoring on the stroke of half-time, but two somewhat scrappy goals from Shane Long and Stephane Sessegnon seemed to be enough for Baggies manager Steve Clarke to inflict a landmark defeat on his former mentor.
But, in the final seconds of four minutes of injury time, Ramires went down under minimal pressure from Steven Reid in the penalty area, with Eden Hazard duly converting from 12 yards to rescue a dramatic point.
At the final whistle, West Brom's players gesticulated furiously with referee Andre Marriner, arguing—perhaps with some justification—that they had been robbed of a memorable victory.
"I think it was a penalty," Mourinho argued afterwards, according to the BBC. "I watched it from different angles. From different speeds. I'm sure it was a penalty."
"It was no penalty—that's my take," Clarke responded. "It is ridiculous to have to take it because it wasn't a penalty.
"I'm sad and I'm angry but I'm also very proud because we were magnificent today. We deserved the three points and I'm proud of my players."
It had been an altogether more convivial atmosphere prior to kick-off, especially as the two managers met and embraced outside the tunnel. Clarke worked under Mourinho—briefly as his No. 2—at Chelsea between 2004 and 2007, but said this week that, with his own managerial career now taking off, he doubted they would work together again.
"I don't think he would want to be my right-hand man," the Scot had joked, according to the Guardian.
On the pitch, Mourinho restored Hazard to the starting lineup after his indiscretion in midweek, while Cesar Azpilicueta came in at left-back for Ashley Cole. West Brom, meanwhile, looked solid in midfield—with Claudio Yacob, Youssouf Mulumbu and Chris Brunt looking to keep things compact.
For 45 minutes they achieved that, but eventually the home side got the breakthrough. And it came from Eto'o, who took advantage of some dithering from Liam Ridgewell at the far post to turn home after Hazard's initial effort had been saved.
If West Brom were demoralised by the breakthrough, they did not show it, although Chelsea had further chances to extend the lead when the second half got underway. The next goal would go to the away side, however; Shane Long showing the greater hunger to head home from the close range after Petr Cech had only managed to parry Gareth McAuley's effort high into the air.
Unbelievably for the home supporters, soon after the Baggies were ahead. It was Sessegnon who grabbed the goal but Cech who was the centre of attention—the Czech Republic international seemingly very slow in getting down to the forward's low strike as it beat him to his right.
Mourinho, however, believed the Baggies should have been penalised for a foul on Branislav Ivanovic in the build-up.
Facing the prospect of a first home league defeat in 66 games as Chelsea boss, the Portuguese sparked a frantic final 15 minutes as he threw everything forward in search of an equaliser. John Terry became an auxiliary attacker and fellow centre-back Gary Cahill saw one great chance denied, but it was ultimately midfielder Ramires who made the difference.
The Brazilian weaved into the box and then collapsed under only moderate attention from Reid, but it was enough to convince Marriner to award the spot-kick. Absent from training on Monday, on Saturday Hazard was the training as he buried the equaliser.
The final whistle came moments later, sparking angry scenes from Baggies players who felt they had been robbed.
"For me it was very soft," Reid told Sky Sports afterwards. "Obviously there was contact, but I thought it was a fair shoulder-to-shoulder challenge. Very disappointing. We feel very hard done by."
Mourinho, however, had a different perspective—saying it was his side who had actually been unfairly treated.
"The referee is one of the best referees in the country—if not in Europe. But today he made mistakes," he added. "We missed chances and at the end of the game, we had a penalty which is always a difficult situation to accept for the team that is winning, but when they go home they will see on their screens that it was a situation where the referee did not make a mistake.
"He made many mistakes during the game but that was not a mistake."
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Both teams now have the international break to look forward to, before the return to league action in two weeks time. Chelsea face West Ham at Upton Park in a London derby on November 23rd, while West Brom have a derby of their own—against Midlands rivals Aston Villa—at The Hawthorns two days later.
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