West Bromwich 1 Chelsea 2: Drogba turns from hero to Blues' fall guy

Striker shows the beautiful and beastly side of game
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The Independent Online

Something for the weekend, Mr Mourinho? Like a relaxed afternoon on your 100th game in charge of Chelsea, ahead of more pressing matters at the Nou Camp on Tuesday night? When Didier Drogba bemused the Albion rearguard to establish a lead early in the second half, the Chelsea manager must have been mentally putting his feet up and puffing on a cigar. By the whistle, he was a relieved man, as his emotional demeanour, all pumping fists, testified.

Another triumph, increasing their advantage to 18 points over Manchester United, should have been something to acclaim on an afternoon when a minute's silence for one of Chelsea's finest sons, Peter Osgood, was impeccably observed. But after witnessing the second-half dismissal of Arjen Robben, hearing the crowd damn Drogba as a cheat and watching the game degenerate with players from both sides attempting to cajole the referee Mark Halsey into taking draconian action against their opponents, Mourinho preferred to maintain his own counsel.

Even Bryan Robson, the Albion manager, had trouble seeking his company afterwards. Words had been exchanged between the benches ,and stewards had intervened after Drogba had gone down under the challenge of Jonathan Greening as though mortally wounded, although he continued after treatment.

The incident, which TV replays suggested was self-inflicted, provoked a rumpus, both on the pitch and on the touchline. "Drogba just dives about all the time," said Robson. "He tried to even it up by getting our player sent off when Jonathan Greening never ever touched him. For me he dives and feigns injury."

However, the West Brom manager insisted there was no residual bad feeling between him and Mourinho. "I was looking for Jose to shake hands at the end. If he wants to join me for a glass of wine that's up to him."

Apparently Mourinho did not accept, although his assistant, Steve Clark,e did. That was just about the only cordial act of an afternoon on which the worst characteristics of the game surfaced too readily: cheating, diving and haranguing officials. It was perhaps timely that the Inter-national Football Association Board Officials, at their annual meeting yesterday, ordered referees to clamp down on these aspects at the World Cup finals.

Chelsea had been dreadfully ineffectual in the first half. It offered Albion an opportunity which they failed to accept. The ageless Kevin Campbell had a header saved by Petr Cech. Then Diomansy Kamara dashed down the left before unleashing an attempt into the side-netting. But the half concluded as the second would develop, with Ronnie Wallwork cautioned after he caught Claude Makelele, an incident which had half a dozen Chelsea players surrounding Halsey, demanding action.

Chelsea's captain, John Terry, said: "We got a bit of a talking to at half-time. It was what we needed." Mourinho's message was clearly galvanising. Six minutes after the break, Junichi Ina-moto lost possession, Drogba seized control and despite three home defenders around him, managed to squeeze a low drive to the right of Tomasz Kuszczak.

Chelsea clearly felt they could shift into cruise control. But Robben dived in recklessly to win the ball on the touchline from Greening, caught him on the ankle and received a red card. The Dutchman can be justified in feeling aggrieved, however. He deserved a yellow card for what was no more than a mistimed challenge.

However, Robben's reputation precedes him, though possibly more as a player who gets other players sent off. Chelsea confirmed afterwards that "if the referee deems it 'violent conduct' we will appeal".

Kamara remained Albion's main source of danger. One ball of his into the visitors' area almost caught out Chelsea, but it rebounded off Michael Essien, with Campbell lurking. He appealed for a penalty, but his claims were rightly dismissed, after he collided with Robert Huth. Mourinho sent on Joe Cole, who had been on the bench following his excellent 90 minutes for England on Wednesday, and, with a beautiful piece of control, thoroughly at odds with what had preceded it, he nearly scored with a drag-back, and curled right-footer.

It was Cole who secured victory for Chelsea after Drogba's initial attempt had been blocked, though Chelsea had to play out time after the substitute Kanu turned in Paul Robinson's low cross. Kamara claimed a penalty in added time, after turning past Paulo Ferreira, but appeared to dive. On a sorry afternoon, it epitomised the whole contest.

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