Battle-hardened Giroud boosts Conte and Chelsea

Olivier Giroud was in the wars on his Chelsea debut to win the admiration of head coach Antonio Conte and the Stamford Bridge faithful.

Olivier Giroud and Antonio Conte   -  Getty Images

Antonio Conte hailed the contribution of Olivier Giroud after the France striker marked his full Chelsea debut with an all-action display against West Brom.

Eden Hazard's excellent brace either side of a Victor Moses 63rd-minute strike got the Premier League champions back to winning ways with a 3-0 triumph, repairing some of the damage done by the heavy shock defeats to Bournemouth and Watford.

Giroud produced a classic piece of target man play to set up Hazard's opener after a tricky opening for Chelsea, underlining precisely why Conte was eager to sign him in January and fill the void left by Diego Costa's return to Atletico Madrid.

"We must be pleased for Giroud's performance. It was the first time he has played from the start for us," Conte said at a post-match news conference.

"He needs to improve but to have a point of reference like Olivier is very important.

"Giroud is coming back from a muscular problem so it's important he goes into our idea of football, into the right position. The first goal was a clear example of our idea."

Alvaro Morata was a shock inclusion on the Chelsea bench after almost a month out with a back injury and the Spain international turned in a lively half-hour cameo after replacing Giroud, who hobbled out of the action with a bandaged head – the price of a bruising tussle with West Brom's centre-backs.

"We must be very pleased because Morata played very well in the last 30 minutes, with great personality and speed," Conte said.

"Now the most important thing for us is that these two players find their best physical condition.

"Morata has suffered for a month with this pain in his back and I hope we've solved this situation."

Match-winner Hazard was similarly buoyed by Chelsea's bolstered options in the forward line.

"He’s a great target man," he said of Giroud in an interview with Sky Sports. "Maybe one of the best in England, so when we pass the ball we can go around him.

"Not just me but Pedro, Willian and others. He’s a good point of reference.

"We have him, Alvaro, I can play striker also… but yeah, he’s a good target man."

An early hamstring injury to on-loan Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and subsequent wastefulness from Jay Rodriguez and Salomon Rondon left West Brom boss Alan Pardew giving a less flattering assessment of his own forwards.

"It's frustrating how many games I must have sat here after rueing missed chances," he said with Albion rooted to the bottom of the table and seven points adrift of safety.

"We knew Chelsea were slightly wounded, so we put high pressure on them and took some risks in terms of our set-up hoping to get an early chance.

"It was unfortunate that Jay didn't take that extra touch into goal. He'd have an easy chance them. But he took it early, thinking the goalkeeper was not set. That would have set Chelsea back.

"Rondon and Jonny Evans - that's three big chances. You have to hurt big teams when you have the chances, and we had three of them and didn't take them."

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