Chelsea 2-1 West Brom: Daily Mirror match report
Published 22:05 21/08/11 By John Cross
If Andre Villas-Boas was under any illusion about expectation levels, Chelsea fans gave him a reminder after just 45 minutes.
Being booed off at half time was hardly the reception the new Chelsea boss would have wanted for his first game in charge at Stamford Bridge.
But Villas-Boas accepts that coming second is not an option. Carlo Ancelotti was sacked for finishing as a runner-up just a year after winning the Double.
He has to work miracles with an ageing squad which looks unbalanced and in need of major investment.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich recognises that and Valencia winger Juan Mata cannot arrive soon enough to give width to the attack. Another target, Spurs playmaker Luka Modric, would be a perfect fit.
The current Chelsea side is too similar to last season. The same deficiencies, with Jose Bosingwa unable to defend, Alex unsteady, lack of creativity and little support for Fernando Torres.
No wonder fans showed their frustrations, even if it did seem harsh so early into a new manager’s reign.
But Villas-Boas said: “It is normal. Last year I was whistled at Porto and the season ended with four trophies and no more boos. It’s just a natural reaction from a demanding public. It’s nothing new.
“What I would say is that you put your opponents under pressure by raising your voices and supporting your team.
“The anxiety and demands of the public regarding what happened last year and the demands that they want from this year. We want to respond to those demands and we want to be champions.
“In our game we need support and tranquillity. We suffered a goal in the fourth minute and people need to be behind us all the time. I think the mental transformation from the players plus their talent was decisive in this result.”
Despite working under Jose Mourinho, Villas-Boas has been anxious to stop any comparisons to the Special One.
But Mourinho set the standard at Chelsea and Villas-Boas has to work under that pressure and there are clear similarities between the pair. Self belief, direct, single-minded and, above all, ruthless.
Chelsea were given an almighty shock after four minutes. Ramires played Alex into trouble, the Brazilian centre half dithered and Shane Long pounced to give West Brom the lead.
The old problems came back to haunt Chelsea. Lopsided in midfield, unbalanced in attack with strikers trying to play as wide men, Chelsea could not find a way through West Brom’s resilient and well-organised defence.
So, in true Mourinho fashion, Villas-Boas hooked Salomon Kalou, who was running around like a headless chicken, after just 35 minutes and sent on Florent Malouda. Villas-Boas changed the system, Nicolas Anelka was pushed further forward.
Chelsea looked much better after the break and it was Anelka who played a major part in the revival. His run and 53rd-minute shot deflected off West Brom defender Jonas Olsson to give them an equaliser.
Bosingwa looked vulnerable defensively but strong going forward. His run and cross in the 83rd minute set up Malouda to score at the back post. Then the Chelsea jeers turned to cheers.
It was a winning start at Stamford Bridge for Villas-Boas even if it was clear he went through torture. You could see him animated on the touchline, pointing, shouting and kicking every imaginary ball.
“It’s because of my age, I think,” said the 33-year-old. “But it’s not me who dictates what happens. It’s their talent and technical ability. In the end the game is solved by them, not me.
“But I think the first games in the Premiership are very difficult for the top teams. You have seen what has happened.
“Man United found it difficult to win against West Brom and now they play against Tottenham.
“Manchester City cruised past Swansea but in the first-half they had their own difficulties and they could not find the spaces to score.
So I think this is the nature of the Premiership in the first games of the season.”
So, there are no easy games in the Premier League.
It looks like Villas-Boas has made himself at home already.