Chelsea vs West Brom match report: Diego Costa and Eden Hazard help the Blues cruise to victory over 10-man Baggies

Chelsea 2 West Bromwich Albion 0

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After a first-half display of the highest quality, Jose Mourinho offered the highest praise. “Brilliant, beautiful,” the Chelsea manager said of his side, who had scintillatingly stormed into a 2-0 lead over West Bromwich Albion after 26 minutes through Diego Costa and Eden Hazard.

They had been so good that the only way the opposition could get near them was through the type of abrasive challenge that saw Claudio Yacob sent off after half an hour.

If Mourinho wished for a reference-point performance for the new Chelsea, something he can always point to as an ideal to be touched, it was this first 45 minutes. This was the best football Stamford Bridge has seen for a long time. By stretching their unbeaten run to 12 since the start of the season, they also set a club record. There were reminders, too, of some of the best qualities from the title of nine years ago.

Once ahead, Chelsea closed up and dropped the intensity. It might not have been as dominating but it maintained control, and again brought up the comparisons between the sides. Mourinho once more scotched them, saying the current side has won nothing yet, but the reality is that the combination of all those qualities is likely to see them win this league rather comfortably. For the moment, it keeps them eight points clear of defending champions Manchester City.

It was also such a clear statement of intent, an illustration that more recent problems do not apply. In recent years Chelsea have struggled after international breaks, and especially struggled against West Brom, who they had only beaten once in the last six years before this game.

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Diego Costa celebrates his opener, the Spaniard's 11th of the season

Mourinho’s side had banished all of that like so many of Alan Irvine’s defenders within 10 minutes. That was all it took for Costa to open the scoring. He chested Oscar’s flick beautifully before volleying past Ben Foster. Hazard’s goal was even easier, as he picked up Cesc Fabregas’ short corner to dance through and drive past Foster – one of the only West Brom players to perform at the required standard. Chelsea initially played well beyond the required standard. This is what they are capable of with Costa at full fitness and the team at full pelt.

It seemed that, with so many of Chelsea’s rivals struggling, Mourinho wanted to show they themselves would not be allowing the pace to drop; that they are prepared to streak clear. It allowed them to drop the intensity later on, but that could be the pattern of the season. Rampant start, easy end. Mourinho found it difficult to put his admiration into words. “The quality of our football was high quality, high quality,” he enthused.

“Another dimension, so well, so fast, so fluid, made the pitch very, very wide with wide people creating spaces to play inside, score two goals. We should have scored much more than that. It was fantastic.”

It was so fantastic, in fact, that West Brom’s players seemed frustrated that Yacob went in rather rashly on Costa. Given that the defender had raised two feet, Irvine offered no complaints, and wasn’t angry with the decision to send Yacob off.

Mourinho, by contrast, seemed rather annoyed with the way his team dropped off. “But I’m always annoyed,” Mourinho responded, this time with laughter. “There are a number of things that can cause that. The objective was  three points. The first half was beautiful. I am many times upset, but not today.”

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Lee Mason shows Claudio Yacob the red card for a two-footed tackle

He was also happy with the crowd. Mourinho had criticised them for the low volume after the 2-1 win over QPR on 1 November, but retracted those comments here. For their part, the home support made a point of being much louder. “I feel sorry for my comments a couple of weeks ago but the reality is today the difference was amazing,” he admitted. “I don’t want to speak again about it. For good or bad, because they pay me to coach, to win matches, not to be critical of the crowd.”

Irvine, meanwhile, ended up offering praise to his defence, particularly for the manner in which they shored up after the red card and prevented what could have been a massacre. “Well, it could have happened. There was no doubt about that,” he said. “This was a hard enough place to come with 11 players. Mourinho said it was magnificent from 10 and I have to agree with him from a defensive side. From attacking, we’d have wanted a lot more.”

Mourinho says that his own players are offering plenty, that he can sense their “hunger”. “I feel it. I feel pleasure in what they do. They are happy to play the way they do. But I repeat, 12 matches played. We have 26 more to play.”

If they keep playing like this, there will be very little doubt.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian (Ramires, 86), Oscar (Remy, 79), Hazard; Costa (Drogba, 84).

West Bromwich (4-4-1-1): Foster; Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Baird (Gamboa, 68); Dorrans (Morrison, 84), Gardner, Yacob, Brunt; Sessegnon; Berahino (Anichebe, 78).

Referee: Lee Mason.

Man of the match: Matic (Chelsea).

Match rating: 7/10.

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