Baggies blow lead but plenty of positives for Bilić

West Brom 3 Chelsea 3

Albion scored three times in a Premier League game for the first time since March 2017, when the opponents were another “big” London club in Arsenal, but were unable to record their first win of the season as Frank Lampard’s team stormed back and grabbed the equaliser in stoppage time to produce the first draw of this season’s Premier League season.

It left me with a mixture of pride, frustration and hope: pride in the way the team took advantage of their opportunities, frustration that they couldn’t hold on and hope for the future that if they can produce this level of performance on a regular basis, survival as well within reach.

While Albion’s search for a striker goes on, Callum Robinson staked his claim with two clinical finishes to put the Baggies 2-0 up. They were Robinson’s second and third Premier League goals, and all of them have been scored against Chelsea with his only top flight goal for Sheffield United coming in their 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge in August 2019.

The Baggies’ third was the result of a very well worked corner with Pereira finding Furlong on the edge of the box and his header was turned home by the unmarked Kyle Bartley. Lampard will be horrified at the amount of space both players had, but it was an excellent finish from the big defender.

Bartley has come in for criticism in the first two games but I thought he played very well against Chelsea at the heart of the defence. It may seem strange to say it given they conceded three goals, but I thought the defence as a whole was much improved. Conor Townsend did not look out of place on his Premier League debut, Darnell Furlong had a largely excellent game while Semi Ajayi looks like he is growing into a decent Premier League defender.

Chelsea are one of the most potent attacking sides in the division and ended the side with Havertz, Werner, Hudson-Odoi, Abraham, Giroud and Mount all attempting to break through the Albion back line – it’s no surprise that they finally succeeded although the third goal could easily have been ruled out.

I don’t think the incident when the ball hit Kai Havertz’s arm in the build up to the third goal was a handball, but given some of the other decisions given by VAR this season, Albion can count themselves unlucky that this one went against them. Robson-Kanu should have done better with his clearance which fell to Hudson-Odoi, but I thought Johnstone did well to save the shot even though it fell to Abraham.

There was also a potential foul on Darnell Furlong at the start of the move that led to Chelsea’s second. The Baggies wing back had just sprinted back having been left on the floor, but then was on his heels as Hudson-Odoi played a one-two with Havertz before firing home.

The Blues’ first goal was an excellent strike from Mason Mount. Johnstone was completely unsighted and cannot be blamed in my opinion. I thought he had a decent game saving well from a couple of shots in the first half.

Romaine Sawyers produced a much improved display as Bilić stuck with the same 3-4-3 formation and the same eleven bar the replacement of the suspended Gibbs with Townsend. The Croat evidently has faith with his players and they repaid him with an good display.

Having largely ignored Albion after the defeat to Everton, the Match of the Day team were much fairer this week and had a short feature on Matheus Pereira. The Brazilian put in another good performance and his back heel pass in the second half was delightful.

Eleven goals conceded in three games is a concern, and no top flight team has conceded that many in their opening three games since Arsenal conceded 12 in 1963 including a 7-2 defeat to Leicester City. The Gunners finished 8th that season – we’d all take that, I think!

But there are more positives than negatives to take from this game. Every Albion fan would have taken a point before kick off, and that point lifts the Baggies off the bottom of the table into 16th place ahead of a run of fixtures that are far more winnable than the ones they have already played.

Furthermore, Conor Gallagher will be available for next Sunday’s trip to Southampton while there are rumours that a deal may finally be done for Karlan Grant this week, although Robinson is likely to keep his place for the time being.

Albion fans can look forward with hope after this performance, hope that they can do enough to keep themselves in the Premier League.

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