London - Premier League leaders Chelsea were hit by an 87th-minute sucker
punch as they were held to a 1-1 draw by lowly West Bromwich Albion on
Tuesday, handing the title race initiative back to Arsenal and
It looked like Jose Mourinho's side would move four points clear after
defender Branislav Ivanovic, who got the winner in Chelsea's 1-0 triumph
at Manchester City last week, smashed the ball home in first-half
injury time to put the visitors ahead.
However, Victor Anichebe grabbed a precious point for the hosts when he
headed in Saido Berahino's cross, leaving Chelsea in pole position in
the table but possibly for only 24 hours.
Chelsea now have 57 points from 26 matches, two ahead of Arsenal, who
host Manchester United on Wednesday, and three in front of City, who are
at home to Sunderland.
At the other end of the table, West Ham United again showed they can win
without suspended striker Andy Carrollas they beat Norwich City 2-0 to
ease their relegation fears with a third successive victory and fourth
straight clean sheet.
Second-bottom Cardiff City missed the chance to move out of the drop
zone when they were held 0-0 at home toAston Villa while Southampton
jumped to eighth with a 1-0 win at Hull City.
Chelsea have found The Hawthorns an unappealing prospect in recent seasons, having lost on their previous two visits.
With Mourinho's side having scooped 26 points from the last 30 on offer
and West Brom winless in four matches under new manager Pepe Mel, few
predicted anything other than a win that would see Chelsea's title
challenge marching on relentlessly.
Chelsea had kept six clean sheets in their last eight games, so the
writing appeared to be on the wall for the hosts when visiting Serbian
defender Ivanovic blasted home from a corner.
But with the clock ticking down, Chelsea's defence was disrupted by an
injury to Gary Cahill, who left the pitch with a calf problem, only to
return seconds before Anichebe rose to flick his header into the net off
the foot of the post.
The point moved West Brom out of the relegation zone above Sunderland on
goal difference and left Mourinho trying to put a positive spin on a
result that could have a decisive impact on the title race.
"We were comfortable in the game, maybe too comfortable. We didn't kill
the game when we had the chance," Mourinho was quoted as saying by the
"In this moment we have one more point than before. If Arsenal and City
win tomorrow they go above us but that is their job. Every game is
difficult and every team needs points."
West Ham and Norwich had identical records coming into their clash but the momentum of recent results was with the Hammers.
Their third straight win came courtesy of two late goals, with James
Collins giving them the lead after 84 minutes when he beat Norwich
keeper John Ruddy to a Mohamed Diame cross and flicked a header home.
Diame made the game safe in added time, latching on to a clearance,
running the length of the pitch and dispatching the ball into the net
with the help of a deflection.
West Ham, whose defence was the butt of jokes following some heavy
defeats in January, have now kept four clean sheets in the league for
the first time since 1985.
"I had the chairman ringing me up to say we had not won under lights
this season or last and that was in my mind," manager Sam Allardyce
"Our goalkeeper kept us in the game and we scored late, when it is hard
for anybody to come back into it. It's a great end to an important run
Jose Fonte scored the only goal as Southampton improved their prospects
of securing European football by winning a tight encounter against Hull
at the KC Stadium.
Fonte's effort in the 69th minute was adjudged to have crossed the line
by goalline technology and left Hull three points above the relegation