A fiercely disputed 96th-minute Eden Hazard penalty saw Chelsea snatch a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Saturday to preserve Jose Mourinho’s unbeaten home record in league games.
The Chelsea manager was heading for his first home defeat in 66 matches when Steven Reid was contentiously adjudged to have fouled Ramires and Hazard held his nerve amid angry West Brom protests to roll home the equalizer.
Samuel Eto’o had put the hosts in front, but West Brom hit back through Shane Long and Stephane Sessegnon to take Chelsea to the brink of a second consecutive league defeat following the previous weekend’s 2-0 loss at Newcastle United.
“It was a penalty,” Mourinho said. “I have watched it two or three times and it was a clear penalty, in the same way it should have been a clear free-kick against West Brom when they scored the second goal. We missed chances and at the end of the game we had a penalty, which is always a difficult situation to accept for the team that is winning, but when they go home they will see on their screens that it was a situation where the referee did not make a mistake.”
Despite Hazard’s equalizer, Chelsea slipped to fourth place, four points below leaders Arsenal, who could move even further clear if they won at Manchester United yesterday.
Mourinho had restored Hazard to his starting lineup after the Belgian attacking midfielder was dropped for last week’s win over Schalke 04 in the UEFA Champions League following his late return from an unauthorized trip to France.
The 22-year-old seemed eager to atone and was the catalyst for his side’s opener on the stroke of halftime with a low shot that was pushed out by West Brom goalkeeper Boaz Myhill, only for Eto’o to embarrass the dawdling Liam Ridgewell by poking the rebound home.
Chelsea led for only 16 minutes, though, with Long outjumping John Terry and Frank Lampard to head home an equalizer after Petr Cech had pushed Gareth McAuley’s powerful header into the air.
Things got worse for Chelsea in the 68th minute and Cech bore a sizeable degree of culpability, allowing a low shot from Sessegnon to squirm beneath him.
West Brom manager Steve Clarke, Mourinho’s former assistant, looked destined to enjoy a famous victory over his former mentor, only for referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot after Ramires threw himself against Reid and went down, to the anger and disbelief of the visiting players.
“It was no penalty — that’s my take,” Clarke said. “That’s five points my team have lost because of late decisions on penalties. It is ridiculous to have to take it, because it wasn’t a penalty.”
Liverpool capitalized on Chelsea’s slipup by crushing Fulham 4-0 at Anfield to climb to second place, two points behind Arsenal.
Manager Brendan Rodgers reacted to his side’s 2-0 defeat at Arsenal by jettisoning his experiment with a three-man defense and the changes seemed to have a positive effect as the hosts romped to victory.
An own-goal from Fernando Amorebieta, a Martin Skrtel header and a Luis Suarez effort put Liverpool 3-0 up inside 36 minutes, with Suarez adding a second goal in the 54th minute to take his tally of league goals to eight.
“Our appetite for the game was outstanding,” Rodgers said. “Luis Suarez is a star talent, but his core ingredient is his work rate, which is something we’re trying to have throughout the team.”