Squad rotation was supposed to be the preserve of Jose Mourinho, but Bryan Robson showed last night that it is a policy that can work just as effectively at the other end of the Premiership as well, leaving out five of the side that beat Portsmouth at the weekend.
The West Bromwich manager would be reluctant to admit it but a derby against Birmingham City on Saturday offered a far more realistic prospect of three points than a trip to the champions and it was a journey he made without Geoff Horsfield, Darren Carter, Zoltan Gera, Steve Watson and Kevin Campbell. A ruthless new approach to the business of surviving in the top flight and the irony was that, for 22 minutes at least, it appeared to be working nicely.
Mourinho had given Michael Essien his first start at the expense of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Joe Cole was back from his temporary exile and in the spirit of forgiveness, Ricardo Carvalho, the original squad-rotation rebel, returned to the bench. For the opening stages these two newly assembled sides afforded each other barely a glimpse of goal, and then Robson's team collapsed without warning.
Thomas Gaardsoe hit a poor pass to Neil Clement and when he failed to control it, Shaun Wright-Phillips, making his first Chelsea start, stole in to feed the ball to Didier Drogba. The striker crossed for Lampard who finished from close range.
The second came two minutes before half-time and arrived when Paul Robinson lost Wright-Phillips on the goal-line on the left flank of the area allowing the winger to cut back towards goal and cross for Cole to finish.
He is in the team for now but Drogba struggles to advance his case with every missed opportunity and although he finally beat Chris Kirkland in the 68th minutes, there should have been more before then. As the siege massed around West Brom's goal in the second half, Kirkland saved superbly from a Drogba header and then picked himself up to stop Essien from burying a loose ball.
Another mistake by Gaardsoe on 65 minutes allowed Cole to slip the ball through for Drogba to run clear on goal but he could not out-sprint Clement. The Chelsea striker forced home his side's third on 68 minutes when Asier del Horno found the striker two yards from goal.
The fourth was Lampard's second and owed much to the perseverance of Arjen Robben who, tackled twice, regained possession and, with Hernan Crespo's help, found the England midfielder eight yards from goal.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cudicini; G Johnson, Gallas, Terry, Del Horno; Makelele; Wright-Phillips (Duff, 79), Lampard, Essien, J Cole (Robben, 69); Drogba (Crespo, 71). Substitutes not used: Cech (gk), Carvalho.
West Bromwich Albion (4-5-1): Kirkland; Albrechtsen, Gaardsoe, Clement, Robinson; Greening (Ellington, 71), Scimeca, Chaplow, A Johnson (Inamoto, 60), Kamara; Kanu. Substitutes not used: Kuszczak (gk), Moore, Earnshaw.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).
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