After all the hyperbole in the build up to this game, this was ultimately a relatively comfortable victory for the Blues.
The anti-Benitez backlash was moderate and generally more good humoured than most pundits anticipated, particularly in the banners: “we’re not that In Ter Im”, a personal favourite
Most of all, the support for the team was steadfast and vocal.
Chelsea dominated possession and territory for the first 70 minutes and with the excellent David Luiz shackling Shane Long, Albion’s kick and run out ball was negated.
Inevitably, Albion went for it in the last 20 minutes but the Blues held on for a much needed 3 points.
On another day, Oscar would have scored a hat trick but as at Middlesborough, he was bright and physically is becoming more resilient in the face of uncompromising defenders.
His first and arguably best chance came as early as 3 minutes in. Ba’s precision ball from outside right fed Oscar well inside the Albion area but Foster was quickly off his line to smother Oscar’s goal bound effort at the expense of a corner.
Mata volleyed wide from an acute angle before Reid’s well struck Free Kick from over 30 yards out was tipped over by Cech in Albion’s only shot in the first half.
Oscar’s duel with Foster continued, heading straight at the keeper from Mata’s cross after a typical Ramires surge.
Ba then scuffed a shot, albeit on target from the inside left channel as the Blues continued to press for a deserved opener.
After Oscar drew a foul from Yacob, Luiz’ Free Kick flicked the wall and Foster made a save that was made for a highlights programme, at the expense of a corner.
From the short corner, Oscar’s deep cross was headed back across goal by Luiz to the unmarked Ba who rifled home from close range to the elation of the 38,500 home fans.
The goal had been coming and was no less than we deserved. Man of the Match Hazard was waspishly busy and looked threatening all afternoon.
It was noticeable that Hazard, Oscar and Mata all made the effort to try and get goal side and make tackles when possession broke down.
The lead was almost doubled from a Mata corner. Oscar drilled a half volley that was well blocked, hit the rebound goalward, with the same result and Azpilicueta had a third bite of the cherry with the same result.
The second half saw Chelsea have the ball in the net twice in the early stages. After Mata crossed from an offside position for Lampard to stroke home (after good work by Hazard), a quickly taken Free Kick was slotted by Ivanovic but referee Friend brought play back.
Hazard was denied a penalty when Olsson appeared to bundle him over from side on: it looked a fair shout from behind the goal but once again, Kevin was not our Friend.
Oscar had 2 further chances to get on the scoresheet. Azpilicueta’s cross was headed into his path by Ba but his shot was straight at Foster.
Oscar’s ingenuity in twisting and turning after a throw in gave him a shooting opportunity that whilst accurate, lacked the venom needed to beat Foster.
After an indifferent performance against Middlesborough, Petr Cech was back to his imperious best.
Although he had relatively little to do until the last quarter of the game, he commanded his area and dished out more than one admonishment when forced to go long by defenders failing to come short for the ball to be rolled out.
He saved well from an Odemwingie Free Kick and dealt with a deflected corner without alarm and a late barrage from Albion was withstood without excessive alarm.
Frank Lampard had a quietly efficient game. A couple of blocked shots and a blaze over the bar aside, he never threatened to mark his 592nd appearance with his 200th goal, although his tackling was effective and his distribution largely solid.
Demba Ba seemed to tire as the game went on but was an effective target man and his link up play was neat and tidy.
All in all, the Blues were good value for our 3 points and probably worthy of another goal.
With Arsenal losing at White Hart Lane, we head into the last 10 Premier League games of the season, 5 points clear of the Gunners in 4th and with Spurs still to play at Stamford Bridge, 3rd is still within our gift.
20 more points will guarantee 4th (Arsenal would have to remain unbeaten and only draw twice to beat us: unlikely at best).
Follow Chris Davies on Twitter: @chrisdaviescfc