TEN-MAN Albion failed to halt the march of unbeaten Barclays Premier League leaders Chelsea as they were undone 2-0 at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
The dominant hosts were an impressive force in the capital as they stretched their advantage at the summit of the table to seven points, with victory maintaining their 100% league record on home soil this term.
Albion goalkeeper Ben Foster pulled off a string to superb saves throughout, but there was nothing he could do to prevent Chelsea’s 11th-minute opener, Diego Costa chesting the ball down and volleying home despite the visitors’ protests for offside.
Eden Hazard doubled the Blues’ lead in the 25th minute, taking advantage at the near post as Albion switched off from a short corner.
Albion’s afternoon was made even more difficult when midfielder Claudio Yacob was sent off for a reckless challenge on Costa soon after.
But the resilient Baggies must take credit for holding firm after the break to restrict a classy Chelsea outfit, and they will now travel back to the midlands looking to make amends when Arsenal are the visitors to The Hawthorns next Saturday.
History was not on Albion’s side going into the encounter, with their last league win at Chelsea coming back in 1978, a contentious injury-time penalty denying them all three points last term.
Yacob and Chris Baird were handed their first league starts of the season as part of four changes from last time out against Newcastle. Craig Gardner, back after suspension, and Stephane Sessegnon also returning.
Albion were indebted to Foster for denying the hosts after just five minutes, the England 'keeper producing a superb stop with his feet to keep out John Terry.
But the home side's early pressure told in the 11th minute as Oscar’s inswinging cross from the left found Costa, who chested the ball down and volleyed first-time past a helpless Foster.
Another brilliant double save from Foster denied the Blues a second soon after, before Costa came within inches of finding the net from Branislav Ivanovic’s deflected cross.
But it was soon two-nil to the hosts. Albion failed to be alert from Cesc Fabregas’ short corner and Hazard skipped past Gardner before firing past Foster with the help of a deflection.
The away side’s afternoon was made even harder just four minutes later as Yacob saw red for a dangerous challenge on Costa.
Chelsea’s dominance continued during the remainder of the first period, Albion restricting the hosts thanks to Foster once more and a last-ditch challenge from Graham Dorrans.
The second half continued in much the same fashion as the first, an unmarked Nemanja Matic somehow volleyed over from close range.
Foster produced a brilliant reflex save to keep out another effort from Terry, this time a header, before once more denying Hazard.
Alan Irvine introduced Cristian Gamboa, Victor Anichebe and James Morrison off the bench but it was to no avail as Chelsea celebrated all three points.
Albion: Foster, Wisdom, Dawson, Lescott, Yacob, Baird (Gamboa 67’), Gardner, Brunt, Dorrans (Morrison 84’), Sessegnon, Berahino (Anichebe 78’).
Subs: Myhill, McAuley, Samaras, Ideye.
SENT OFF: Yacob (serious foul play 29’)
Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Willian (Ramires 86’), Oscar (Remy 80’), Hazard, D Costa (Drogba 84’).
Subs: Cech, Zouma, Filipe Luis, Schurrle.
GOALS: Costa (11’), Hazard (25’)
BOOKED: Willian (foul 75’)
Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire)
Albion star man: Ben Foster