Chelsea remained unbeaten under new coach Guus Hiddink after conceding a late equalizer to draw 2-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Wednesday.
Unmissable with a protective black mask, Cesar Azpilicueta put Chelsea ahead after 20 minutes, turning in a low cross from Branislav Ivanovic.
West Brom hit back and was rewarded with an equalizer when Chelsea gave the ball away and Craig Gardner fired home from 25 yards (meters) in the 33rd minute.
Chelsea’s pressure paid off in the 73rd minute when West Brom’s Gareth McAuley turned the ball into his own net as he tried to intercept a low cross by Willian.
But victory slipped through Chelsea’s grasp at the end, when James McClean pounced to score an equalizer in the 86th minute to end the Blues’ hopes of a third consecutive victory in all competitions.
Chelsea is unbeaten in six games since the departure of former coach Jose Mourinho. But Hiddink’s chances of securing a top-four finish receded further in front of owner Roman Abramovich and ahead of Saturday’s clash with Everton.
Chelsea began well. Diego Costa glided by Jonny Evans but shot wide and Willian fired off target either side of a chance for McClean, who headed off-target from Darren Fletcher’s cross.
Azpilicueta is less than prolific, but likes scoring against West Brom.
The full-back, who netted at The Hawthorns in August, claimed his first goal at Stamford Bridge when he prodded in Ivanovic’s cross at the back post.
There were holes aplenty in the visiting defence, but Chelsea’s rearguard was porous too.
West Brom exposed those frailties when Pedro gave the ball away to Fletcher, who was influential for the visitors. Fletcher prodded it to Gardner, who did the rest, shooting into the bottom corner from distance.
Costa ballooned an effort over and Salomon Rondon shot just wide as both sides had chances to take an interval lead.
Pedro made his debut at The Hawthorns and inspired Chelsea to a first win of the season, but his star has faded since. The subdued Spain winger was withdrawn for Kenedy at half-time and the Brazilian gave Chelsea much-needed pace and penetration.
Costa had no complaints when he was booked for a poor lunge on Gardner after losing control of the ball.
Chelsea continued to press, with a deflected Costa effort going into the side-netting.
McClean was then booked for squaring up to Thibaut Courtois as the contest became more niggly still.
Chelsea took the lead for a second time when Willian’s cross deflected in off McAuley, who was under pressure from Kenedy.
Costa was denied and Kenedy shot wide before McClean equalized from the edge of the area after Chelsea twice failed to clear.