Liverpool 0-2 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Chelsea defied odds by beating Liverpool at Anfield, and thus ending the home side’s 11-match winning streak, with a heavily-rotated fringe side.

With Jose Mourinho’s focus being on Wednesday’s all-important second-leg against Atletico Madrid, it was no surprises to see many changes. The likes of Andreas Christensen, John Swift, Lewis Baker and Tomas Kalas were all part of the squad that travelled to Anfield but whilst it was only the latter two making a place in Mourinho’s 18, it was still a Chelsea side massively under-strength, with Cech, Terry, Hazard, Oscar and Eto’o all absent.

And what a début for the 20-year-old Tomas Kalas, who alongside Ivanovic, marshalled the defence superbly to give Luis Suarez his quietest game of the season.

And what might have been has Chelsea not lost against Sunderland last week, or Crystal Palace, or Aston Villa? The answer is Chelsea would be top of the table with this victory, but instead, it has firmly suited Manchester City’s pursuit.

But what a day for resilience and professionalism from Mourinho’s men. Many reporters were livid Mourinho would, selfishly, field a weakened side and hand Liverpool this title-deciding match. They got the first part right — Mourinho would field a weakened side — but any side Chelsea play still has the tactical genius of Mourinho, and so it proved.

Tight early pressing to stop Liverpool getting any ground early on — where they have been so formidable this season to kill the game off early — was of paramount important to Chelsea’s game-plan.

Unpleasant amount of time-wasting is not good for any neutral to see, but Mourinho, as well documented by himself, is no neutral. Granted, no-one could have predicted Gerrard would slip in the third minute of added-on time at the end of the first half owing to Chelsea’s time-wasting, but Ba took his opportunity expertly, slotting home past Mignolet’s legs.

It was all Liverpool — 73% possession and 26 shots to Chelsea’s 11 speaks volumes — but many buses were parked in what was surely a practice run for Wednesday night.

And as Liverpool threw the men forward and Mourinho has sent on Willian and Torres for some fresh legs, so it all went to plan for the visitors. Torres ran 50 yards with the ball, and, with no man to beat but Mignolet, decided to play safe as Willian rounded the Belgian goalkeeper to send Mourinho into his euphoric frenzy.

Man of the Match

MaticNEMANJA MATIC: It would be unjust not to award it to one of the Chelsea back-line, and though Mark Schwarzer was sublime when called upon, as were Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Kalas and Cole when dealing with Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling, but most attacks did not get that far thanks to Matic. Especially with a young centre-back making his début, it was imperative the Serbian — still new to Chelsea himself — was authoritative, destruction and full of concentration. As per, the 25-year-old did not fail to deliver. 8/10

Manager Reaction

Mourinho had praise for many of his players: “[Schwarzer] was good — very solid and very experienced. When Liverpool started putting long balls in the area for Mark and Cahill and Ivanovic, they were like fish in water. Demba Ba was fantastic. In front of a good goalkeeper, he was cool and scored. [Tomas Kalas’ full début] was beautiful.”

Brendan Rodgers was resigned in his assessment: “We tried everything we could. We just couldn’t make the final breakthrough today. They defended well, they won the game, give credit to them.”

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had three 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.

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Swansea City 0-1 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Demba Ba scored the crucial goal as Chelsea ground out a hard-fought 1-0 win at Swansea.

The Senegalese man’s goal in the 68th minute kept Chelsea in the title race, still two points behind leaders Liverpool, who host the Blues in a fortnight’s time.

It will surely go down as the title decider with Liverpool seeing off Manchester City earlier in the day, much to Chelsea’s relief, and the Blues knew what they needed to do here in Wales.

They got a helping hand from Chico Flores, who made two cynical fouls in the opening exchanges and his afternoon only lasted 16 minutes, with Phil Dowd, despite much thought, showing him two yellow cards in quick succession.

It was a situation where many referees may have bottled it, or used the fact it was so early in the game as some irrational justification, but the facts were there: two tactical fouls prevented Chelsea marching in on Swansea’s goal and he had to go.

Chelsea, however, were sure slow to take full advantage of their superior numbers.

Frequently did the visitors prowl and pass their way around the Swansea half, but without real penetration or conviction in the final ball. Demba Ba, who was rewarded for his winning goal against PSG mid-week with a first league start since October today, was in good spirits and held the ball up well, but with little support. The 28-year-old also had opportunities with his head but little was to work for Chelsea in the first half.

And so the double substitution. Mourinho, an acclaimed tactician, could wait no more and Oscar and Eto’o were to enter the fray for the second half.

Now boasting a two-man attack, it gave Ashley Williams and the Swansea back-line more to contend with.

It nearly worked a treat within three minutes, when some dodgy defending in the Swansea box saw the ball fall kindly at Eto’o’s feet. Perhaps caught out by his luck, the Cameroonian punted it wide from a glorious, central position.

Swansea were more and more set up for a counter-attack and they had their chance when Routledge ran through. Terry slipped as he attempted to lunge at the ball but it turned out to be fortuitous: had the captain’s shoulder not been in the way, it may have nestled into the back of the net.

Swansea has so far dealt with all sorts of problems but ironically could not deal with a throw-in from Chelsea’s own half. Azpilicueta’s throw to Matic was harmless, but the Serbian’s lob to Ba instantly caught Swansea out. Two or three touches later to bamboozle  Williams and Vorm was beaten too.

The roars from Swansea had deafened and it was the Chelsea fans singing in relief more than euphoria. Mikel came on for Ba to shut up shop and Chelsea did just that to claim three precious points.

Man of the Match

MaticNEMANJA MATIC: It will be Demba Ba making the headlines for his goal, especially having been so patient as a peripheral figure for Chelsea this season, but a word must go to Matic for a fantastic outing. It was he who spotted Ba’s run to claim the assist, but the Serbian’s all-round defending, strength, hold-up play and wonderful foot-work to weave his, and his team’s, way out of trouble was well-needed against a possession-loving side like Swansea. 8/10

Manager Reaction

Steve Holland was handed the media duties but the message was clear: the result was the most important thing: “We played in the Champions League in the week, and it was a physically and emotionally draining game. It was difficult to go again, but we stuck to it and came through. Swansea can frustrate you. They’re good at retaining possession. They got everybody behind the ball every minute of the game. We had to find a way through.”

Gary Monk was defiant especially with Swansea just three points above the relegation zone: “We didn’t get the result [but] I can’t complain about the performance after going down to 10 so early. My players were brilliant, and the crowd were magnificent too. We’re not safe. Two more wins will probably do it for us.”

Stats

Chelsea 2-0 Paris Saint-Germain: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Stamford Bridge witnessed another spectacular night as Chelsea managed to progress through to the semi-finals in dramatic style.

Demba Ba’s 87th minute toe-poke proved to be the winner, as the 3,000-strong PSG faithful were sent back home mulling over what might have been.

But it was another victory for determination and belief. Chelsea needed another Napoli evening. And whilst it was slow and often painful — PSG had their fair share of possession and opportunities — it was two substitutes in Schurrle and Ba who secured Chelsea’s passage to the semi-finals.

It looked as if the 3-1 deficit carried over from last week would be too much for Chelsea to overturn. The PSG players, it was rumoured, were to receive a huge financial bonus if they beat Chelsea tonight. But the French side looked like a bunch of individual talents than a cohesive team born for the big occasions.

Step by John Terry, Petr Cech and all the Chelsea players. It was a night which defied how far the human body could go in the pursuit of victory. Bodies were thrown, risks were taken, hearts were poured out. All in the name of a semi-final berth.

It was certainly a cautious opening. PSG, minus Ibrahimovic, posed no lesser a threat with Cavani and Lavezzi continuing to keep Cahill and Terry busy. In truth, Laurent Blanc could be immensely pleased with the opening half hour, stifling Chelsea’s hopes for a quick start.

PSG’s night got even better — or so they thought — when Hazard went off injured, but this only galvanised Chelsea, and, perhaps, freed up the players.

Half an hour had gone but still no Chelsea goal. Lampard’s free-kick nearly tricked Sirigu, but that was the closest the home side had come.

Then came the goal that gave the Blues belief. Ivanovic’s long throw-in drew Luiz in, and a host of PSG defenders. The Brazilian’s little flick behind then freed up Schurrle to side-foot home: 1-0, half-way there.

And then came the surge. The Blues hit the woodwork twice early on in the second half — one through Schurrle and one through Oscar — but the PSG goal was not to be penetrated.

Ivanovic had to be resolute against Cavani but the second half wore on and time was against Chelsea.

Then it became a match with no tactical structure. Mourinho, known for his astonishing tactical acumen, seemed to blow it all apart by having all of Chelsea’s forwards — Torres, Ba, Eto’o — on the pitch at once. It looked improvised, until the man said in his post-match interview they had been practising it.

And then it became a long ball game, typically seen before with Stoke. The ball-players had made way — Hazard, Oscar — and the direct approach was taken. Terry pumped the ball up front, Ba won a phenomenal amount of aerial duels and then it came down to a huge chunk of spirit.

Pinball in the box saw the ball fall out to Oscar, and his hopeful shot was tame. Ba was quickest to react and scooped it into the net. It was a rubbish finish but perhaps why the Senegalese man was brought on: his positioning is better than the other two Chelsea forwards and boy was he in the right place at the right time there.

Cue melt-down. Mourinho came charging out, more to bark orders than celebrate. It was not over yet. Corner after corner came PSG’s way. Sirigu was sent forward. Cech denied Marquinhos with a wonderful save. Ba and Torres were make-shift centre-backs.

No-one was to be denying Chelsea their night.

Man of the Match

0,,10268~12289862,00EVERY CHELSEA PLAYER: It was a night which needed Man of the Match performances by everybody, and there is no separating them. Cech, who has come into criticism of late, was phenomenal at his near post and from their set-pieces. Cahill and Terry, as per, threw everything into the cause. Luiz, too, was well disciplined. Willian and Schurrle deserve a mention due to their fantastic work-rate, carrying the creative spark when Hazard left. And as for the forward line: Eto’o was a constant pest, Torres looked motivated as an emergency centre-back, but Demba Ba took his moment when it mattered. Everyone deserves a 10/10.

Manager Reaction

Mourinho was delighted with his players: We gave everything. My four defenders were brilliant. The midfield were animals. Luiz was a monster. Our forwards were brave. You always believe. It is part of our nature.”

Laurent Blanc cut a dejected figure: Chelsea were much better in the second half and they were rewarded. Good luck to them.”

Chelsea 4-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Tottenham only had themselves to blame as Chelsea recorded a resounding 4-0 victory against their London rivals.

A series of defensive howlers settled the game in Chelsea’s favour, with Eto’o, Hazard and Ba the beneficiaries.

It means the Blues are now seven points ahead in the table, albeit having played one game less than Liverpool and three less than Manchester City.

Regardless, Chelsea can only do what is put in front of them and though not a vintage performance, Tottenham sure handed Chelsea gifts.

It was a match that could have ended so differently. Two early chances for Chelsea — first Eto’o within the first minute and Hazard was round the goalkeeper in the fourth minute — went begging, and then for the next 50 minutes, Chelsea had more than met their match defensively, but Tottenham’s high-line held resolutely.

Until Minute 55. Vertonghen’s slip was costly, and the Belgian tried to atone by sticking out a leg to stop Schurrle running on to it, only for it to help Chelsea in the form of Samuel Eto’o. The Cameroonian is getting on a bit in terms of age, but banged in his 300th club goal with ease, and celebrated humorously by using the corner glad as his walking stick. It was all looking rosy for Chelsea.

And the frustrations certainly disappeared three minutes later. Hazard’s ball to Eto’o was weak, but the 32-year-old held the ball up well and collided with Kaboul, resulting in the Frenchman’s sending off, and Hazard deceiving Lloris from the spot-kick: 2-0.

With a man down, it was damage limitation for Tottenham, who have already suffered heavy defeats this season against the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool. They managed it until the 87th minute, but two more Chelsea goals were to come in the dying stages, both from substitute Demba Ba.

The 28-year-old Senegalese forward may not get much game-time nowadays but still bagged a brace in his 15-minute cameo, but both were again courtesy of Tottenham howlers, first Sandro slipping at the crucial moment as Ba closed in from point-blank range, and then Ba beating Lloris to a Walker back-pass and slotting home into an empty net. It was buckets and buckets of salt poured into the Tottenham wound.

Man of the Match

Eto'oSAMUEL ETO’O: The Cameroonian may be 33 years old on Monday but what he may have lost in physique he certainly has made up for in mental strategy and ruthlessness, a term Mourinho calls “cold”. Brutal and unforgiving, the striker read the mistake by Vertonghen quicker than Dawson or Kaboul, and forced the latter to make a second error for the penalty. An enormous handful inside the penalty area, perhaps even Chelsea’s main striker, so it will seem foolish to let him leave in the summer. 8/10

Manager Reaction

Mourinho was understandably delighted: “The first goal was born in a mistake but it was a mistake that my striker reads in a fantastic way and is cold enough to see the ball through the legs of the keeper. After that I think Spurs felt they had no chance and we controlled the game and scored a few more goals. It was a heavy result I don’t think they deserved, but three points is very important for us and clearly deserved.”

Sherwood was livid with his side: “Lack of characters [is what’s to blame for this capitulation], too many of them too nice to each other and you need to show a bit more guts. It hurts me and I won’t forget about this. It’s not a penalty and not a sending off but the game was finished after that. We let [the fans] down again on the big occasion. You won’t finish in the top four if you don’t beat top teams.”

Match Stats

Chelsea 2-1 Aston Villa: key stats

stats

Possession (%):  69 | 31

Passes: 677 | 286

Accuracy (%): 88 | 69

Passes In Final Third: 175 | 100

Accuracy (%): 67 | 50

stats2

 

Post-Season Friendlies

Chelsea embarked on a post-season trip across the pond to cap off another remarkably unpredictable season. The visit to the US 10 months ago was the start of a new Chelsea era who were in the reckoning for seven trophies. In the end, the Blues managed to secure one they were never registered for during the last visit, but it was warmly paraded and welcomed by the strong US fanbase.

Chelsea 3-4 Manchester City (Fri 24 May, 01:30 BST)

It was Rafa Benitez’s farewell tour, having left the day-to-day London offices and a chance to enjoy America and before the interim first-team manager departs, he was determined to play some youth. With tired legs after an arduous 69-game season, the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Christensen were given starts, whilst Nathan Ake and Jamal Blackman were to come off the bench.

The Blues’ youthful look was matched with some experienced heads, and it was Ba’s head from which the first goal came. Juan Mata swung in the assist, with the Senegalese striker jumping ahead of Joe Hart.

Azpilicueta buried his penalty as the Spaniard was enjoying the freedom as the evening’s right-winger to record his first Chelsea goal. It was, again, Juan Mata in the thick of the action, causing Rekik to push his over inside the box.

Two became three nine minutes after the restart. Rekik was caught daydreaming and when Ramires pinched the ball, his compatriot Oscar set off and rounded Wright for the game’s third.

With the game seemingly safe, Blackman replaced Cech, but the young goalkeeper’s first action was to pick the ball out of the net twenty seconds after coming on. Javi Garcia struck firm and low.

Milner fed a delightful through-ball to Dzeko three minutes later as the Bosnian, who was a half-time substitute for Aguero, prodded home.

Blackman stood firm in the face of a thrilling City comeback, but Dzeko grabbed his second with a first-time side-foot, before Tevez and Richards combined for the crushing winner in the 91st minute.

Chelsea 3-5 Manchester City (Sat 25 May, 22:30 BST)

After the seven-goal thriller served up in Saint Louis, an eight-goal feast was on the menu for the expectant New York crowd. In part two between ‘Chelsea and Manchester City: Stateside’, it was once again the team in lighter blue coming out as the victors.

Chelsea had started so brightly played 45 hours before, but in a change of environment and with Brian Kidd adamant his side would not concede three without reply like in New York, it was City who started brighter, and a backpass by Oscar fell woefully short. Aguero’s shot was blocked by Hilario, playing his last game for Chelsea, but Barry was running in.

Nasri made it two with a delicate chip over the onrushing goalkeeper just shy of the half-hour mark in a first half City controlled.

Chelsea got back into the game 30 seconds after the restart after Ramires’ beat the offside trap and met Luiz’s astonishing pass, before rounding home past Richard Wright.

Milner’s low drive beat Cech as City restored their two-goal advantage but yet again Ramires’ replied, this time tapping in one yard out.

Nasri put the finishing touches on a wonderful City passage of play as the scoreline became 4-2, but Juan Mata set up a tense finale as his outstanding free-kick eight minutes from time hit the underside of the bar and in: Wright was motionless.

Mata free-kick

The hopes were dashed just two minutes later, however, as Dzeko’s long-range daisy-cutter evaded Cech as Benitez’s departs Chelsea with a loss.

 

 

Chelsea 2-1 Everton

Chelsea avoided a possible play-off and secured third place thanks to a Fernando Torres winner to send Rafael Benitez out on a high.

Juan Mata had given Chelsea the lead in the seventh minute, but Naismith levelled seven minutes later. With the score remaining 1-1 until the 75th minute, one eye was on the Arsenal game, but Chelsea were left to thank Torres’ short-range bullet to preserve May’s unbeaten record.

In truth, the game was near enough a dead-rubber. Everton has secured 6th place whilst Chelsea, in 3rd or 4th, had guaranteed a Champions League berth for next season. But you would have been forgiven for thinking this would have had the intensity of a training ground match. Far from it.

Everton had the desire to make sure David Moyes signed out with a victory, and, as bizarre as it may seem 47 matches later, it seemed Chelsea had some motives to part company with Benitez with three points also. The growing respect for the Spaniard, as so often the case, comes as he is about to leave, but not without a Europa League to his CV.

And though there was little to play for, both teams respected the Premier League until the end. Chelsea handed a first Premier League start to Nathan Ake, whilst Andreas Christiensen was involved with the first-team for the first time, being on the bench. Despite the youth, there was still experimental force. Ba and Torres were starting, albeit not as a partnership with the Spaniard as the right-winger.

And on the back of that Amsterdam win mid-week, there was a real jovial atmosphere around Stamford Bridge, which was reciprocated on the field of play. Demba Ba nearly broke the deadlock three minutes in but Distin stood his ground.

The warning signs were there and Chelsea did make them pay moments later. Ba’s shot this time was saved by Howard, but Mata was on hand to score his 20th of the season.

Steven Naismith had other ideas just as Chelsea fans were hoping for a comfortable win, capitalising on a David Luiz mistake and firing past Cech, as the game started in terrific fashion.

The tempo did not cease: Everton his the post twice in an end-to-end match, whilst Torres had opportunities. Ake was holding firm, just about, in the holding midfield role, whilst his defensive partner continued to show his capabilities on the back of that one-year contract extension, nearly doubling the host’s lead on the stroke of half-time after the game’s best passage of play.

Gary Cahill’s left-foot drive was well stopped by Howard’s two hands whilst Ba had all the time in the world to score, but found Distin in his way.

So too did Oscar become fearful of the menacing Everton central defender. One on one with the Frenchman, the Brazilian opted for the long-range daisy-cutter, rather than meeting Distin man-for-man. It was a lethargic effort but a tiring season, and no doubt the sheer size of Distin on Oscar dissuaded the Brazilian from trying to race the 35-year-old.

Jelavic had a glorious opportunity to give Everton the lead but his tame left-foot try was smothered by Cech, whilst Ivanovic could not work wonders with his right foot as he did with his head on Wednesday. The Serbian had plenty of space on the penalty spot to turn and shoot, but skied it high and wide.

Torres showed his how to score, however, just two minutes later. Ba had, by now, been substituted, and so the Spaniard took up the more advanced centre forward role. Ake’s slow build-up play eventually came to Moses’, who headed down for Torres to half-volley home past Howard’s near post: 2-1.

It was the former Liverpool striker’s first goal in the Premier League for over 19 and a half hours, time spanning back to the last calendar year, but it was the crucial winner as Chelsea end another turbulent season with joy.