James McClean has the perfect response for Chelsea boo boys and one online troll
Published 14/01/2016 | 02:30
James McClean was barracked incessantly by the Stamford Bridge crowd last night and had a heated exchange with Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, but the controversial Ireland winger had the last laugh when he smashed in a late equaliser to frustrate the fallen champions.
McClean, making his comeback after a three-match suspension, then ran to the fans cupping his ears to celebrate his goal.
And McClean also had the perfect response for one online troll who tweeted: "Out of everybody to burst ma coupon , that wee irish rat james mclean has done me for £250 #scumbag."
McClean was not fazed, tweeting back: "@Nizzy_10 want a sub mate?"
After their side's 3-0 victory at Selhurst Park, Chelsea fans hoped that the nightmare was over, that the autumn horrors had been a bad dream.
However, it is not just the league table that reveals otherwise, on the pitch Chelsea's recovery under Guus Hiddink remains fragile. Despite twice taking the lead last night they were rarely in command against a smart West Brom side that rose to the challenge.
When the final whistle went, Diego Costa raged at the officials and opponents, but the anger seemed born of frustration at a season that still stubbornly refuses to follow the script.
Chelsea's only change from their previous league match was enforced - Pedro retaining the place vacated by the injured Eden Hazard.
West Brom arrived with a terrible record at Stamford Bridge. They had lost 12 and won none of their last 14 matches here. Manager Tony Pulis' own history here was no better, having lost on all six visits.
But they still came with hope. The days are over when a team like Albion, as they did under Bryan Robson a decade ago, would write off a match like this and field the sort of team now deployed in cup ties. Albion had won their last two league matches and if their default setting appears defensive that is the same every week, not just when away to the champions.
And Chelsea now are playing, if not quite like champions, then with rather more of the style and swagger akin to that status than they did a month ago, under you-know-who. That was evident from the off as Cesc Fabregas freed Costa who nutmegged Jonny Evans before fizzing a rising drive wide.
As the half wore on it became clear the Fabregas-Costa link is functioning smoothly again, Chelsea's goal began with this combination. But it was also evident that playing Fabregas as a quarterbacking midfielder does leave a hole in the defensive cover, as was shown by Albion's response.
Chelsea's opening goal was a beauty, it was also unlikely to have been scored under Jose Mourinho because both full-backs were committed in advanced positions.
Fabregas floated a pass into Costa, who laid the ball off to Willian. He fed Branislav Ivanovic on the overlap and the Serb's low cross was tucked in at the far post by Cesar Azpilicueta, arriving ahead of Chris Brunt. It was Azpilicueta's second league goal in 105 appearances; the other was also against West Brom, in August.
Chelsea won that match, moving them ahead of Arsenal in the league, with Pedro scoring on debut. It seemed the platform for the much-garlanded Barcelona player, gleefully poached from Manchester United's grasp, to give Chelsea fresh impetus.
It has not quite worked out that way with Pedro's season summed up by the way he lost possession to Darren Fletcher after 34 minutes. Fletcher switched the ball to Gardner, an early substitute for James Morrison who looked to have suffered a knee injury.
Gardner is known for his long-range shooting but he was allowed to advance into the empty space in front of Chelsea's centre-backs before driving a low shot past Thibaut Courtois from 25 yards.
The referee, though forced to issue a plethora of yellow cards, had a fine game.
Albion seemed to enjoy the combative nature of the match more than their hosts and looked the likelier scorers when Chelsea suddenly regained the lead. Fabregas sent Willian galloping down the right and his fiercely-driven cross was turned in at the near post. Kenedy claimed the goal but replays showed the crucial touch was off the knee of Gareth McAuley.
Myhill brilliantly saved a deflected Costa shot as Chelsea went for the kill - as they needed to because there was never any sense that the points were safe. So it proved.
With five minutes left a quick free-kick caused problems in the Chelsea box and McClean seized upon a loose ball to drill the ball in from just outside the box.
It was no less than Albion deserved. Tellingly they finished the match looking the more likely winners but were much happier with the point than Chelsea, who remain deep in the lower half of the table.