Florent Malouda’s late goal gave Andre Villas-Boas his first taste of a Premier League victory as Chelsea manager as West Bromwich Albion were beaten 2-1 on Saturday.
Albion took a surprise lead through Shane Long in the fourth minute at Stamford Bridge, but Nicolas Anelka’s equalizer early in the second half set up an exciting finish that saw substitute Malouda score seven minutes from time after good work by Jose Bosingwa.
It got the Villas-Boas era off and running after a false start at Stoke City on the opening weekend, when Chelsea were held to a 0-0 draw.
Villas-Boas made two changes following that stalemate, with goalkeeper Petr Cech, who is expected to be out for a month with a knee injury, replaced by Hilario and Anelka recalled at Malouda’s expense.
Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel started his second game since learning his father had been kidnapped back home in Nigeria, but the home side made the doziest of starts and were a goal down inside four minutes.
Ramires was guilty of a sloppy pass to Alex and Long nipped in to win the ball, before outpacing the two Brazilians and slotting past Hilario.
Hilario was called into action in the 16th minute to beat away a drive from Paul Scharner after Chris Brunt had played the Austrian into a shooting position on the right of the penalty area.
Chelsea were looking sluggish on the ball and bewildered off it, and they were grateful that Long, having used his pace once again, made a mess of an attempt to set up Somen Tchoyi for a tap-in.
It was no surprise, therefore, that Villas-Boas decided to make a change 10 minutes before the interval and it was Salomon Kalou who trudged off to be replaced by Malouda.
The switch instantly pepped up the home side and Ben Foster, who had been a virtual spectator in the Albion goal, finally had some work to do.
First he dived to his right to keep out an effort from Ashley Cole and then he was fortunate that referee Lee Mason did not award Chelsea a penalty when Anelka nipped in to get the ball before the pair collided in the penalty area.
Luck was also on the West Brom goalkeeper’s side in first-half stoppage-time when a fierce free-kick by Alex was deflected into his arms by Malouda.
However, Anelka conjured up an equalizer seven minutes into the second half when he won the ball on the edge of the Albion area and went on to fire a low shot that was deflected past Foster by defender Jonas Olsson.
Scharner missed a free header at the other end, though, and after Foster had denied Anelka, Villas-Boas replaced Fernando Torres with Didier Drogba.
Albion were still a threat and Hilario pulled off a fine save to keep out a curling effort from Tchoyi.
Drogba was unable to connect with a defense-splitting ball on the run as Chelsea sought a late winner.
Olsson might have gifted them a penalty when he raised an arm while jumping in the box, but once again referee Mason did not spot it.
Albion were finally beaten when Bosingwa beat two men on the right flank and sent in a cross that eluded the defense and allowed Malouda to finish at the back post.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Queens Park Rangers celebrated the start of a new era under Malaysian owner Tony Fernandes with a 1-0 win over Everton.
Fernandes bought a 66 percent stake in the west London club earlier this week and Neil Warnock’s men, who lost 4-0 at home to Bolton Wanderers last week, took the points at Goodison Park when Tommy Smith curled his shot into the bottom corner in the 31st minute.
Aston Villa secured their first victory under new manager Alex McLeish as Blackburn Rovers were beaten 3-1 at Villa Park.
McLeish’s team, who drew at Fulham last weekend, took the lead in the 12th minute through Gabriel Agbonlahor’s 50th Premier League goal.
Emile Heskey increased Villa’s advantage in the 25th minute and, although Morten Gamst Pedersen reduced the deficit with a 52nd-minute header, Rovers were condemned to their second successive defeat when Darren Bent struck midway through the second half.
Swansea goalkeeper Michel Vorm saved a penalty from Wigan Athletic midfielder Ben Watson as the first Premier League game to be played in Wales finished in a 0-0 draw at the Liberty Stadium.
Vorm pushed away Watson’s second-half spot-kick, awarded for an Ashley Williams foul on Jordi Gomez, to give Swansea their first point back in the top flight.
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