WEST BROM 1 (Victor Anichebe 87)
CHELSEA 1 (Branislav Ivanovic 45+3)
John Terry's absence could cost Chelsea a shot at the Premier League title.
Last year, the polarising defender was a liability. Now he's a colossal loss for his club.
There hasn't been a metamorphosis of this magnitude since Eric Cantona went from the karate kid to the king of the Stretford End in a single season.
Defying age and logic, the pantomime villain has turned priceless asset.
From irritant to irreplaceable, Terry's transformation was completed by a fixture in which he didn't feature.
His shadow loomed large over the plodding proceedings at The Hawthorns yesterday morning (Singapore time).
Chelsea couldn't beat a lively but limited West Brom without him.
The Blues can't win the title without him.
For once, Jose Mourinho told the truth when he suggested that the 1-1 draw resulted from "a lack of personality", allowing the Baggies to tear past the cautious Blues and snatch a late equaliser.
Terry's presence determines Chelsea's personality. Their recent renaissance has mirrored that of their skipper.
Right or wrong, good or bad - and there's been plenty of both - Terry and Chelsea are interchangeable.
Cut him and he bleeds blue.
When Victor Anichebe left David Luiz at the hairdressers to nod in West Brom's late equaliser, there was an immediate sense that the goal could have been avoided with different personnel.
Terry wouldn't have lost his marker. Any part of his anatomy might have been thrown in the ball's general direction, but he would have got there.
He has been getting there all season.
As David Moyes appeared to dismiss veterans Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic the day he arrived at Manchester United, Mourinho looked to Chelsea's past to build a short-term future.
Moyes isn't taking a risk in dropping Ferdinand and allowing Vidic to leave.
But Mourinho is taking a risk in trying to scrub clean a defender once consider a washed-up, has-been; a cold heart unworthy of an Indian summer.
Love him or loathe him, dismissing Terry is a futile exercise; like poking a snoozing bulldog with a stick.
Perhaps only the Chelsea skipper would antagonise his critics by playing 24 of 26 Premier League matches this season - and every minute of those games until a thigh injury ruled him out of the last two.
He has doubled his partner, Gary Cahill, in the number of interceptions (27) and saved his best for the biggest bullies.
The Blues grabbed 10 points from a possible 12 against the other top-four sides. That statistic is the most telling.
Arsenal are meek against the mighty. They are blessed with master craftsmen, but no monsters.
Intimidation isn't a quality associated with the Gunners. They make their title rivals run. They don't make them hide.
Manchester City and Liverpool have Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure and Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez respectively; men who strike fear in others. The Blues don't feel fear.
But Chelsea certainly did at West Brom.
Pepe Mel's second-half substitutions were clever, particularly the addition of the barnstorming Anichebe, but they should not have been enough to bridge the chasm in talent that clearly existed between the two sides.
As Mourinho pointed out, "a ready team, a complete team, kill this game".
Instead, the Blues played within themselves. Eden Hazard malfunctioned on the flank. Chelsea regressed. Their fight fell away and they withdrew, setting up their defensive line inside their own penalty box, inviting unnecessary pressure.
They got nervous; a weakness not permitted on Terry's watch.
As he proved against Man City, the skipper feeds off sustained pressure. Pumped balls into the box just inflate his ego.
This season, he has taken out crosses of Saido Berahino's pace and precision like a man taking out the garbage.
Mourinho's "little horse" routine is getting old, but the draw at West Brom proved that the Blues are a team in transition rather than title winners in waiting.
Their journey to silverware remains a long one. And only Terry knows a shortcut.
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