Chelsea one win away from Premier League crown after battering Middlesbrough 3-0

Match Summary

Chelsea are just one win away from being crowned Premier League champions after a resounding 3-0 win against Middlesbrough, and in doing so sent the visitors down.

The Blues, whose slim 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture in November sent them top of the table for the first time in since winning the league in the 2014/15 season, surely confirmed that their name will once again be on the 2016/17 trophy, after a near-perfect performance.

With Tottenham slipping up on Friday, the Blues knew they needed to exploit the chance to extend the lead to seven points, and Costa, Alonso and Matic did just that, though Cesc Fabregas will take all the plaudits for another exceptional assist-making display.

It means Chelsea can secure their sixth league crown on Friday night away at West Brom, before Tottenham even have a chance to play again.

It was a match both sides needed to win for very difference reasons. For Middlesbrough, one would have expected a dogged, last-ditch attempt at survival. For Chelsea, one would have been forgiven if nerves crept in knowing Tottenham lost earlier in the weekend.

What transpire was totally the opposite: Chelsea oozing class from the off and Middlesbrough frankly all off and resigned to being relegated for a record-equalling fourth time.

One enforced change saw Fabregas come in for the injured Kante but the man is no inferior and needs no introduction. Inside 90 seconds, the Spaniard floated an exceptional cross-field ball right onto the foot of Alonso, who volleyed with great technique. Guzan pushed it onto the bar, but the warning signs were there because Fabregas was given simply too much space.

The 30-year-old could have taken a goal for himself when Hazard flighted a ball nicely to him but Fabregas, with acres of room and centrally inside the penalty area, opted to place rather than rifle and in the end got his angles wrong.

Costa was then inches away from tapping in Hazard’s square ball after the Belgian was found superbly by Azpilicueta, but he did not have to wait long to score the opening goal of a Premier League game for the seventh time this season, more than any other player. The Spaniard was found by his compatriot Fabregas who read the situation superbly and Costa just had to nutmeg Guzan. In doing so, it means Costa has become the third player to score 20+ goals in a Premier League season for Chelsea on two occasions.

The chances just kept coming. Moses and Hazard exchanged glorious one-twos but no-one was there to tap home from two yards, but it would get better. Azpilicueta found Alonso and left wing-back beat the offside trap well and slotted home his sixth goal of the season.

Just half an hour had been played but Chelsea were running riot.

Fabregas’ 70-yard ball to Moses was pinpoint, and the right wing-back should have done better when one-on-one with Guzan.

Would Chelsea step off the gas in the second half? No, Pedro would hit the cross-bar in the first minute of it. Then Alonso would drill a cross goalward and Costa was inches away from sliding in a third.

Cahill joined in on the action with a stunning 25-yard drive, whilst Fabregas’ try from a similar range was nearly deflected off Chambers’ head and nearly caught Guzan wrong-footed.

Matic would add the icing on the cake. From a short set-piece between Fabregas and Hazard, the former chipped the ball towards the Serbian, who chested it and then scored his first Premier League of the season.

When Courtois did have to make his first save of the game, it was a routine 30-yard drive, but all the action was the other way. Pedro blazed wide when on a counter-attack with Fabregas and Luiz, whilst Moses was denied by Guzan’s leg.

It could have been more, but Abramovich and Shevchenko was delighted, as was Ancelotti who was in the crowd, no doubt cheering on his compatriot Antonio Conte, who is on track for a debut-season double, just as Ancelotti managed in 2009-10.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

CESC FABREGAS: The man has only had a bit-part say in Chelsea’s starting line-up, but his influence is huge. He may not get all the starts, but when called upon the Spaniard delivers. That is credit to his personality, for he could have sulked, and he summed it up beautifully in a recent interview: “I feel like I have matured a lot this year. Obviously I haven’t played every single game [but] the quality of my minutes whenever I have been on the pitch has been fantastic this season, my contribution maybe sometimes is even bigger than in full seasons where I have played every single game. I have had to have patience and accept these things happen.” More assists like tonight and Conte will have no choice but to make him a regular starter for next season. 9/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Conte knew tonight was a big chance: “We must be pleased. It was a great performance, my players showed commitment and work-rate for three important points. At this stage it was important to win and exploit Tottenham’s defeat. Now, another step to the title. We have to rest well and prepare for West Brom.”

Agnew was resigned: “I am absolutely gutted and bitterly disappointed with the result and we have now lost our Premier League status which we took great pride in.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Fan View

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea suffer shock 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace

Match Summary

Chelsea’s run of 10 consecutive Premier League victories at home come to a shock end as Crystal Palace fight back to win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Fabregas ensured the hosts got off to the perfect start after five minutes, but Crystal Palace won on their last trip to Chelsea in August 2015 and would do so again, with two goals in two minutes soon after, firstly by Zaha before Benteke delivered the killer blow.

Six of the last seven meetings between these two sides have been settled by single-goal margins, but despite a second-half Chelsea onslaught, Conte could not pick up where Chelsea left off before the international break.

The Blues have kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 league games, having recorded 10 shut-outs in the previous 12 matches, and this loss, coupled with a tricky-looking fixture against Manchester City on Wednesday, proves the title race is far from over, with the lead currently standing at seven points.

Embed from Getty Images

It was a frenetic start to the match, with the outcome decided in all but 12 minutes. Chelsea poked their noses in front first, started off by a wonderful long ball by Fabregas to Hazard, who controlled and waited until the Spaniard caught up with play, squaring the ball back to Fabregas to tapped home from three yards out. It was sound a simple goal, but it was expertly done between the two men supporting Diego Costa up top.

They say you are at your most vulnerable straight after you have scored a goal, and if complacency did creep into Chelsea’s play, it should not take away from a fine individual goal by Wilfred Zaha just four minutes later.

With the ball lost by Matic, Benteke and Zaha were tightly marked but the latter shrugged off Alonso and Azpilicueta and, with the smallest window of opportunity, leathered it past Courtois.

One became two just moments later as Chelsea were stunned. Two-on-two again after a swift counter-attack, Benteke and Zaha ran rings around Luiz and Cahill, with this time the latter turning provider for the former. Benteke, now one-on-one with Courtois, still had a lot of work to do, but lifted the ball over his Belgian compatriot with aplomb. The 26-year-old scored against Chelsea home and away last season whilst playing for Liverpool, and despite having only scored one goal in his last 13 league games this campaign, was returning to haunt Chelsea agin.

The match did not let up after such a busy start. Pedro should have been granted a penalty when his shot was blocked by Townsend’s arm — Craig Pawson denied it — whilst Hennessey did brilliantly to stop Costa’s shot after he was found by Fabregas.

The onslaught kept coming: Alonso, Matic and Azpilicueta all had noteworthy chances, as too did the expected Hazard and Costa. The Blues would rack up 11 shots on target to Crystal Palace’s three, but Hennessey was not budging.

Conte had seen enough and decided a tactical switch early in the second half: Willian on for Matic and a switch in formation.

That nearly instantly backfired when Crystal Palace could have put the game to bed, with Puncheon finding Zaha one-on-one with Courtois but this time the Belgian stood tall.

Batshuayi then came on as Crystal Palace looked to defend their lead in the closing quarter of an hour, but Costa nearly broke in from a Hazard cross, but somehow skewed his free header well wide.

Goal-mouth scrambles ensued as Pedro’s cross was hurriedly cleared, but despite the seven injury-time minutes, Chelsea could not find a way back, meaning the visitors claim four straight Premier League wins, a feat last achieved 24 months ago. It also means Sam Allardyce becomes the first manager to win a Premier League match against Chelsea with four different clubs. Conte will be hoping to take revenge against Manchester City, and Pep Guardiola, on Wednesday.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

CESC FABREGAS: With Willian only just returning from international duty, Fabregas was given the opportunity to be one of the two supporting men for Diego Costa, and the ex-Arsenal ace does not take long to make an impact, does he? Sublime cross-field ball to Hazard that covered the length of the field, and the awareness to get on the end of it was superb. Did cause Crystal Palace problems thereafter, but could not do enough to drag his side back into it. 6/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Conte felt this was one of those days: “This is football. We must accept this result. We scored our goal after five minutes and then we conceded two in a few minutes. When you concede goals in that way you must understand the situation and improve on these mistakes. In every game in England, anything can happen. The league is so strong.”

Allardyce was pleased his side did not cave in: “I think our performance is typical of what seems to be the character of the side. The determination has shone through. The defence was outstanding, the goalkeeper was outstanding. The game plan worked exceptionally well.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Fan View

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea knocked out of EFL Cup in 2-1 defeat at West Ham

Match Summary

Chelsea bow out of the EFL Cup in limp fashion with a 2-1 away defeat to West Ham, in a match overshadowed by yet more crowd disturbances.

The Blues, who had 53% and 16 shots to West Ham’s 13, were undone by two early goals at the start of both halves, with Kouyaté edging the Hammers ahead before Fernandes doubled, leaving Cahill’s injury-time goal a mere consolation.

It means the Blues’ run in the League Cup ends in this last-16 stage as Conte’s men re-group to focus on the Premier League, having made seven changes for tonight’s cup game.

Embed from Getty Images

Chelsea lost on their last visit to face West Ham, and despite the new venue, West Ham were in good control for the 90 minutes, going a goal ahead within the first 11.

Kouyate’s header started proceedings for the hosts in front of a rapturous but troublesome home crowd as Conte’s game-plan was torn to shreds.

That game-plan focused on rotating his side, with the break in Premier League action affording starts for Chalobah, Aina and the returning trio of Terry, Willian and Oscar, but the 5-2-3 system stuck.

Terry had an opportunity from a set-piece whilst N’Golo Kante was keen to press on from his superb goal at the weekend against Manchester United, going forward and stinging the hands of Randolph.

West Ham continued pressing and one nearly became two twice from either Antonio or Payet, but the third chance was the best when Antonio squared a ball to Lanzini who fluffed his lines with half an hour played.

The pressure was not alleviating but Kante had a presentable opportunity but instead he decided to pass than shoot. Batshuayi, leading the line with Costa rested, was resorted to long-range efforts.

West Ham’s first-half superiority only brought about one goal but two minutes into the second half they had their just rewards. Payet raced forward and his shot was expertly saved by Begovic, but West Ham regrouped where Chelsea did not and the ball fell kindly to Fernandes who cut inside past Aina to strike home.

Conte was not departing the competition without a fight and so on came Costa, Hazard and Pedro. Oscar had a penalty claim waved away, whilst Willian wasted a good chance to claw Chelsea back into it with a quarter of an hour left to play.

Chelsea grew and grew but time was against them, with Terry heading wide and Costa slipping when one-on-one, and the pain of these missed chances were ever more felt when Chelsea did get a goal back through Cahill’s prod home from a corner.

Had Chelsea buried one of their other chances late in the game it might have turned to extra-time but instead Chelsea turn back to SW6 knowing their name will not be in the quarter-final hat this season, a feat they have reached in four of the last five seasons.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

asmir-begovic-thumbnailASMIR BEGOVIC: Despite conceding two goals, given the relative mish-mash of the defensive in-front of him, which included Aina, Chalobah, a returning Terry and even Oscar becoming defensive midfielder later on in the game, Begovic did make some good saves to stop the score-line becoming worse, notably saves from Noble and Obiang. The relative shame is the Bosnian still cannot provide sufficient enough competition for the complacent Courtois. 6/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Conte still saw some positives: “The performance was good because we knew they would play a strong game, but I think we played with a good intensity and created many chances to score a goal,’ said Conte. ‘I saw a good spirit in my players because until the end they tried to change the result. Tonight we were a bit unlucky.”

Bilic knew where the game was won: “We were really good in keeping the ball and stretching them and playing wide. In the first half it was great and I think we deserved to be more than one up.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Fan View

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea and Leicester share spoils in end-of-season party

Match Summary

Chelsea fans’ misery came to an end as the Blues rounded off their season by giving a warm reception to former manager Claudio Ranieri and his title-winning Leicester City.

Two second-half goals, the opener from Fabregas and the equaliser from Drinkwater, were peripheral matters as the visitors continued their parade — and the Blues their holiday — in what fittingly was a love-in for the conquering former Blue Ranieri, who was visibly in tears with the reception he received from all areas of the stadium after his guard of honour.

With Tottenham ending their season in car-crash style, it means the visitors have emphatically walked away with the Premier League title this season, some 10 points clear of second-placed Arsenal. How fitting it was for the parade to start here at Stamford Bridge, the side who won the title by eight clear points themselves only 12 months ago. They sink to their lowest Premier League finish in 20 years, marking a rapid decline in which this season they could only win 12 of 38, draw 14 and lose a further 12.

It also marks the final game for outgoing interim manager Guus Hiddink, who departs Chelsea with a 37% win rate. The man he replaced, Jose Mourinho, recorded a 38% win percentage in the 24 games he was in charge of this season, so a penny — or many millions — for Abramovich’s thoughts about whether the sacking was worth it.

Embed from Getty Images

Everyone, in truth, was too merry to care about any action.

Pedro, sporting his mask and indeed Chelsea’s new kit, had the game’s early chance, cutting inside from the left and shooting just wide of Schmeichel left-hand post, with the Dane keen to keep the clean sheet to enhance his status for Golden Glove.

Schmeichel was most definitely the busier of the keepers, having to fend off attacks by Traore, who was leading the line with Costa injured. It was the creative sparks behind him that nearly broke the deadlock with half an hour plated: Willian fed Fabregas in a central position as Leicester were opened up, but Schmeichel stood as sturdy as a rock to whack the ball away.

The favour between the Brazilian and Spaniard was returned seven minutes later when an excellent lay-off from Fabregas was met first-time by Willian, who was to be denied by an excellent one-handed Schmeichel save.

Vardy, on 24 goals for the season and himself chasing Golden Boot, had little to feed off but did have a shot deflected as he tried to get his side firing.

Sensing he needed others to help ignite his side into life, Okazaki and Schlupp were introduced by Ranieri at the start of the second-half. Hiddink made adjustments of his own: Loftus-Cheek and Abraham came on — and later Tomori — but you would imagine not to necessarily win the game but to get critics off his back who have said the Dutchman has not played as much youth as he promised.

It was the re-fired Hazard who would make the game’s big contribution though, engineering an attack through delightful dribbling into the box and, whilst Abraham swivelled and had his shot blocked, the ball was met by the oncoming Matic who was felled by Schlupp.

Craig Pawson had no doubt it was a penalty, and Fabregas sent Schmeichel the wrong way. It was the Spaniard’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all coming under Hiddink.

But the visitors have the best away — and home — records in the league, and coupled with the fact that the Blues have gone 12 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge without keeping a clean sheet, you sensed they would equalise.

And they would in the 82nd minute out of nothing.

Loftus-Cheek was caught ball-watching and Drinkwater was afforded far too much space in the middle of the park to compose himself from 30 yards. Courtois had the time to see it but it was hit with pinpoint accuracy, as Leicester end the season with only three league defeats.

The less said about Chelsea’s 12 the better.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

nemanja-matic.thumbnailNEMANJA MATIC: Been a dreadful season for the Serbian by any standards, summed up by losing his place to Mikel, but the man linked with a summer move to Juventus had to be alert against a side known for their counter-attacking, and it is a testament to his work today that he kept Vardy, Mahrez and Okazaki at bay. When he did get forward, he won the side’s penalty. 7/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Hiddink leaves feeling he has done a good job: “Until December, there were big worries as the club were one point away from the relegation zone. My first task was to get away from that and in two months we were out. As a second target, we wanted to go further and get to the top four. [Today] it was a typical end-of-the-season game where there was nothing at stake. We were sloppy after the penalty and they got the equaliser.”

Ranieri was happy to end the season back at his former club: “The emotion is fantastic. It was a good atmosphere and I want to say thank you to our fans and the Chelsea fans. It was amazing. Both teams had great chances and well done to the players.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Strong Chelsea side secure hard-fought 2-0 win against Scunthorpe

Match Summary

A full-strength Chelsea side battled to a hard-fought 2-0 victory against Scunthorpe United, as the Blues’ journey in the FA Cup starts with victory.

The League 1 side went 1-0 down early in the first half thanks to a Diego Costa toe-poke but any thought that Mark Robins’ side would be a walk over proved far from the truth as it was only until near the 70-minute mark before Ruben Loftus-Cheek secured the game with a very tidy finish.

It means the Blues progress into the fourth round of the competition which they have the most realistic chance of winning, but there is still a long way to go before Guus Hiddink can begin to imagine getting his hands on the cup for the second time.

Embed from Getty Images

With that in mind, it was easy, albeit still incredibly frustrating, to see why Hiddink opted to field a full-strength side. One reason Mourinho was fired was his stubbornness in not playing youth and whilst in the pre-match press conference, Hiddink outlined that there would be a chance for “a young player” now he had settled into his interim position since being appointed in December but that young player proved to only be regular starter Kurt Zouma. Other young talents like Kenedy, Loftus-Cheek and Traore, who would arguably be big success stories of the season at any other Premier League club, were made to wait.

But for all Chelsea’s starting strength, it was the rigour of Scunthorpe which shone through in the early stages in what looked like a typical cup tie where the favourite started with caution. Williams was allowed to get a shot in inside two minutes but that was blocked, but the goal in the 13th minute settled Chelsea down.

Ivanovic swung one of his better balls of the season in and Costa ran in front of his man to get the slightest of touch to divert the cross goalwards. It was a scrappy goal and may well have been an own goal but the home fans did not care one jot, and officially it becomes the first time Costa has scored in three consecutive games in over a year.

Fabregas had a long-range pile-driver tipped over the bar soon after as Chelsea settled into their professional rhythm, as did Pedro and Oscar try their luck, but it was looking laboured and the strength of Chelsea’s side should have comfortable saw out Scunthorpe.

The second goal was proving to be elusive for the remainder of the half and that invited Scunthorpe pressure, with van Veen and Dawson getting in quick efforts from a corner.

But the talent of Chelsea did shine through in the second half, and maybe the emerging talent of Chelsea also. Oscar was replaced at half-time and Ruben Loftus-Cheek was afforded 45 minutes in an attacking role having been used previously by Mourinho in a holding role, and it was the young Englishman who raced onto an Azpilicueta cut-back from the left to record his first ever Chelsea goal.

In truth it was an excellent goal by Loftus-Cheek, who timed and then held his run to perfection to wrap up a Lampard-esque finish but credit must also be given to Azpilicueta who covered half the length of the pitch to support the attack.

The life was sucked out of Scunthorpe soon after and that played into Chelsea’s hands. Williams and Bishop had the odd attempt for the visitors but Begovic was not meaningfully testing, and with the two-goal cushion, that allowed Hiddink to give Kenedy, and then Traore, some game-time.

The fourth round draw takes place on Monday and 48 hours later, Chelsea’s attentions turn back to rescuing their Premier League form with another home match against West Brom.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

kurt-zouma.thumbnailKURT ZOUMA: Physical presence and athleticism are arguably Zouma’s best attributes and that was put to the test today, with Zouma making a number of last-ditch tackles to spare the blushes of Cahill. The Frenchman is probably one of the first names on the team-sheet now and he was solid and quick to react, particularly when the scoreline placed the game still in balance. 7/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Hiddink realised this was Chelsea’s best chance of silverware this season: “The Premier League is difficult to get the fourth place, but the other projects are the FA Cup and the Champions League. “It is a decent result against a very strong opponent, especially in their set-pieces. We started well, but we forgot to kill it off. We had high pressing, but we were a little bit arrogant in our finishing.”

Robins rued a penalty not awarded by Pawson when it was still only 1-0: “Chelsea made it very difficult for us and early on we gave the ball away too much but after that I thought we were good. It is a nailed-on penalty and you come to places like this and you want to get the decisions.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea return to winning ways with slender 1-0 victory against Norwich

Match Summary

Chelsea arrested a slump of three league defeats in a row with a shaky 1-0 win against Norwich.

Diego Costa’s 64th minute opener proved to be the winner in a match which Chelsea dominated with 65% possession, despite the fragile one-goal cushion always leaving tensions high until the last seconds.

In the end, Chelsea did see through the result with only their third clean sheet in the last 16 Premier League matches, and the win moves the Blues up to 15th place, having garnered a paltry 14 points from 13 matches so far.

Embed from Getty Images

Mourinho took his place back in the dug-out after sitting out the last league encounter against Stoke and once proceedings began, it was Chelsea who looked the brighter.

Costa found Hazard who pulled back the ball to Fabregas but the Spaniard was wayward with his shot.

Moments later, it was John Terry of all people, who attempted a neat back-heel flick towards goal but his intricate piece of skill found only the side-netting. It would have been a goal any striker would have been proud of.

Costa should have scored mid-way through the first half after neat work by Hazard, Fabregas and Pedro but the Spaniard was wasteful.

All the while, Norwich had their fair share of chances too. Redmond’s low drive was dealt with by Begovic but the warning signs were there, especially as Mbokani had time to get his shot away at Norwich’s next meaningful attempt.

Fabregas was denied by Ruddy and Hazard’s cross was inviting but invited no-one as Chelsea looked to end the half strongly. Perhaps Costa should have been a big stronger when in the box, rather than call in vain for a penalty.

But Norwich should have gone into the interval one-up. Startling amount of space was left for Bassong on the right to side-foot it into the bottom corner, but for Terry’s crucial block with the studs on his boots. It was a certain goal.

Would Chelsea wake up? It would need another 15 minutes of the second half, though.

Hazard was tracked all game and when he was fouled around the half-way line, Fabregas’ quick thinking in looping the ball to Costa was smart and Costa did the rest when one-on-one with Ruddy. It was only Fabregas’ second assist of the season when at this point last season he had 13, and Costa’s fourth goal of the season, in a partnership that worked so well last season.

Zouma was close to adding the insurance goal when he met Willian’s free-kick, but his touch rebounded off the crossbar.

Norwich piled forward after a triple substitution with 20 minutes to go, but Chelsea had their chances too with Pedro, and especially with Matic who was allowed to run past five Norwich defenders and could only find Ruddy’s right leg.

It was a match of Chelsea versus John Ruddy, but the 11 of Chelsea proved to be victorious in a match that was all about the points.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

eden-hazard.thumbnailEDEN HAZARD: A return to some sort of decent performance for the Belgian, who excelled in this Number 10 role after a season spent on the wings, but a long way to go to find last season’s form consistently. Made some good runs and showed his pace and trickery, but we wait until Tuesday to see whether this was just a one-off or whether Hazard is finally kick-starting his season. 7/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Mourinho understood the importance of the points, but was still dismayed: “The only thing we didn’t do was score more from the chances we had. We should have scored at least two and breathed easier.”

Neil was frustrated with one lapse in concentration: “I am disappointed. I thought our players worked really hard, I felt we gave Chelsea very little.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea 1-2 Crystal Palace

Match Summary

Chelsea’s start to the Premier League campaign took another turn for the worse after being beaten 2-1 at home by Crystal Palace.

In his 100th home game as manager of Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, who had only lost once at home in the 99 previous matches, would have his centenary spoilt by Sako and Ward.

It means the Blues have four points from four matches, a far cry from starting last season with 12 points from the opening four matches, a feat which Manchester City have managed this season, leaving the current champions already with an eight-point mountain to climb.

Embed from Getty Images

It should have been a routine win, buoyed on by the fact that Chelsea secured the title the last time they played Crystal Palace. But given Pardew’s successes against Mourinho, both in his role as Newcastle manager and now Crystal Palace, you knew it would be a tough afternoon, especially given Chelsea’s shaky start.

Branislav Ivanovic, newly appointed vice-captain, has has a shocking start to the season and it is easy to see why 50% of Palace’s attacks were down the Chelsea right in the first half, with the Serbian unable to contain Zaha.

Still, Chelsea had their moments: Pedro’s home debut brought Chelsea possession and the pressure off Hazard, but perhaps the Belgian needs the pressure as it was another off-day for the Chelsea Player of the Year last season.

Zouma was felled inside the box but Wickham was let off, as was Delaney when trying to wind up Costa.

Cabaye should have put the visitors in front when one-on-one but Courtois was equal to it, whilst at the other end, the dainty nature of Fabregas meant he opted to pass to Cahill rather than shoot himself. The Englishman did — but it went well over.

Trying to walk it into the net is a frustrating game for the fans and the tension was palpable for all to see on the Chelsea fans’ faces, especially against a well-organised Palace defence. Costa and Fabregas came closest but McCarthy was quick in a double save.

The second half would be a different story, with Palace largely dominating.

Bolasie came on and it was he who squared the ball to Sako, who smashed it past Courtois.

Mourinho’s reaction was instant: on came Falcao and Kenedy for Willian and Azpilicueta, but if Mourinho’s cryptic post-match messages are anything to go by, the wrong full-back was taken off. The Blues manager, normally a staunch defender of his players, slammed an unnamed individual who played the full 90 minutes, stating “I blame myself for not changing one of them”, with speculation it might be captain Ivanovic.

Loftus-Cheek came on for Matic but it was desperate stuff. Bolasie should have made sure of the points when he was six yards out, but the life-line came through Falcao.

Pedro has an assist to look back on for his home debut with his excellent whipped cross meeting Falcao’s head, who planted home the equaliser. His celebration showed passion and relief clearly on a personal note, but perhaps one should think more of the team, and his was still under-performing.

Could he spur on a turn-around in the last 10 minutes then? In short, no; in long, absolutely not. Palace responded instantly and Ward fired home a winner.

What is going on at Chelsea?

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

———————————————————–————————————————————

Man of the Match

pedro.thumbnailPEDRO:  Another good display from the summer recruit, taking the burden off Hazard’s expense but perhaps retrospectively not for the Belgian, or whole team’s, benefit. The former Barcelona ace was Chelsea’s best threat going forward, and planted a delicious cross right into the head of Falcao to give Chelsea the leveller. Stinkers for the week are Ivanovic, Hazard and Costa. 6/10

———————————————————–————————————————————

Manager Reaction

Mourinho was defiant: “We didn’t deserve to lose. But Palace gave us a very difficult game. The result should be a draw, which would still be bad for us. We did enough not to lose. Four points in four matches is a very bad start. In another league I would say ‘game over’. In the Premier League I don’t say ‘game over’.”

Pardew was thrilled: “It was a really good performance today – one of the best performances I’ve seen from one of my teams in terms of composure. Our defenders had to defend really well and they did.”

———————————————————–————————————————————

Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

———————————————————–————————————————————

© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2015. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.