Chelsea and John Terry end on high as five-star Blues demolish Sunderland 5-1

Match Summary

Chelsea round off the title-winning season, and John Terry’s career at Stamford Bridge, in emphatic style with a 5-1 demolition of bottom-of-the-table Sunderland.

The Blues, knowing that if they won they would become the first Premier League side to ever win 30 matches in a 38-game season, fell behind early but re-grouped through Willian, Hazard and Pedro before Batshuayi put the icing on the cake with an injury-time brace late on.

It was the perfect ending to the season, with the Blues finishing on 93 points, as the division’s second-highest goalscorers and Courtois the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets, as Cahill and Terry both jointly lifted the Premier League trophy.

But the headlines will be dominated by the romantic farewell for Chelsea’s captain, John Terry, making his 717th and final appearance for Chelsea, who departed with a standing ovation and guard of honour in the 26th minute of the match, in line with his Chelsea shirt number.

Embed from Getty Images

Antonio Conte would have been forgiven for resting a few players for this dead-rubber, especially with an FA Cup Final to prepare for next week, but the Italian opted for a full-strength starting elevent in front of an adoring Stamford Bridge crowd for the final time this season.

However, it was not the start they were hoping for.

A Sunderland free-kick inside the first three minutes was not properly cleared by the Chelsea back-line, featuring John Terry for the final time, and Manquillo slotted home.

Whilst that was not in the script, this fixture has produced an average of 3.6 goals in the 31 Premier League meetings these sides have met for, and so it was no surprise to see another quick goal, this time in line with the script-writers.

Hazard won a soft free-kick from Jack Rodwell, but referee Neil Swarbrick gave it and Marcos Alonso shaped to shoot. Whilst the distance — 20 yards — was in his range, it cannoned back off the bar, and after some dallying by multiple Chelsea players, none of whom wanted to shoot, it fell to Willian to drive it past Pickford.

After the slow start, Chelsea soon found their gear.

Alonso was next to try and get involved from long range, whilst a Luiz disguised his free-kick, shaping to shoot but in reality finding Costa, who peeled away on the left-hand side but miscued his side-foot volley.

Corner after corner went Chelsea’s way as the Blues kept probing, and in truth it was no doubt from corners that John Terry had the best chance of a parting goal.

But he was not to get one.

Conte had been talking about preparing a “surprise” for this game, and it came in the 26th minute — John Terry’s Chelsea shirt number — when Cahill stripped off to come on for the departing Chelsea captain.

It was a move well-orchestrated — with Pickford making sure he kicked the ball out of play in time for a stoppage in play to occur, and then the Chelsea players formed their own little guard of honour for the Chelsea defender — but whilst the players were in-the-know, it did appear to take the Chelsea fans inside the ground by surprise, with many expecting a hurrah much later.

The game was starting to have a testimonial-like feel, but Costa brought things back to life with his ferocious nature, elbowing John O’Shea off the ball and getting a yellow card for his troubles.

The Sunderland defender could have had the last laugh on Costa and his club, though, when he nearly scored from another Sunderland set-piece, and Chelsea were struggling to deal with them into the second half, with Rodwell heading low and nearly catching Courtois by surprise.

But at the other end, the Chelsea talent shone through.

A long Willian ball presented a quick counter-attacking opportunity for Chelsea, with 2-on-2. Costa passed to Hazard, who was shown onto his outside smartly by the defender, with the Belgian wanting to cut in. Turns out the Belgian’s left foot is just as accurate, firing past Pickford to put Chelsea in the lead for the first time this match.

Conte then opted to preserve the big guns ready for next week’s Wembley showdown, with Costa and Hazard both departing, but their substitutes in Pedro and Batshuayi were no outsiders to the Chelsea title-winning team this season, and proved such by scoring or assisting three remaining Chelsea goals.

A Fabregas long ball left Lescott in a panic, needing to head the ball somehow with Pedro breathing down his neck, but the Englishman inadvertently sent it closer towards goal, and with Pickford off his line and in no man’s land, Pedro raced on to head in a third.

Batshuayi would make things worse for David Moyes’ 499th Premier League game as a manager, scoring twice in the final two minutes.

Pedro found the Belgian for the first one with an excellent reverse pass and Batshuayi beat the offside trap to slide home, whilst the icing on the game was a pure solo goal, collecting the ball on the right wing and cutting inside on his left foot to curl past Pickford.

It was a day of celebration: celebration for the emphatic win, celebration for the title-winning campaign, and more poignantly, celebration of a true Chelsea great in John Terry.

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

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

Man of the Match

MICHY BATSHUAYI: Bit-part player? Judging by these last three games, I think not. Michy Batshuayi has had to bide his time to justify his £33 million price tag since his summer move from Marseille, but with the title-winning goal against West Brom, the Belgian only had half an hour on the field today and still bagged a classy brace. With Costa waving to the Chelsea fans on his substitution, could Batshuayi been Chelsea’s leading man next season? 7/10

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

Manager Reaction

Conte was in dreamland: “I dreamt this but I must be honest if you asked me on my first day at Chelsea if I would win the league and be in the final of the FA Cup, it [would have been] very difficult for me to imagine this. It is an amazing moment for us to celebrate this win, for me and the players. I think this change [three at the back] was very important for us. We found the right balance and every single player enjoyed this type of situation. It was a key moment for us.”

Terry deliver an emotional farewell speech: “I have been very fortunate to work with some unbelievable players and managers throughout my career. I am thankful to every single one of them. We all have to thank Roman Abramovich. I would like to thank him and all the board. He is the best owner in world football. I will come back here one day, supporting the team for years to come.”

Moyes’ emotions could hardly have been more contrasting: “I am a man who has just lost a game today and I am gutted at the way we have lost it. I am gutted that we have been relegated, I am really disappointed at the way the season has gone.”

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

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.

Advertisements

Chelsea serve fans a seven-goal thriller in 4-3 homecoming victory against Watford

Match Summary

Chelsea made hard work, but ultimately gave their fans an entertaining match, of their first match back at Stamford Bridge since being crowned champions with a 4-3 win against Watford.

With Conte making nine changes since clinching the trophy just 72 hours prior, John Terry was restored to the line-up and made himself hero and villain inside 25 minutes, scoring the game’s first before gifting Capoue an equaliser moments later.

Azpilicueta and Batshuayi put daylight between the two sides but Jaanmart and Okaka had other ideas, before the seven-goal thriller was settled by Fabregas coming off the bench.

Whilst in other circumstances Conte will be disappointed Watford scored from all their shots on target, it proved to be a good run-out for his fringe men as his side equalled the league record of 29 victories in a season, set by the Blues themselves in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

And with Sunderland to go at home on Sunday, there is every chance the Italian could go one better than Mourinho’s run and secure 30 wins.

Embed from Getty Images

The hosts were the division’s highest scorers going into the game with 76 goals, but even the most die-hard of Chelsea fans would not have expected this seven-goal spectacular, especially when noting the starting line-up omitted the likes of Costa and Pedro.

However the tone was set within three minutes by Willian, who was through on goal but cynically brought down to warrant the first yellow card on a busy evening for Lee Mason.

Whilst nothing came of that, great skill at Chelsea’s next attack between Batshuayi and Hazard could have yielded a goal but Hazard could not find the finish when he cut inside.

Batshuayi was then through on goal and his swivel and shot brought the corner from which Chelsea did break the deadlock. Willian’s outswinger was met, at the second attempt, by a flailing John Terry leg to score his first goal for Antonio Conte.

It was a romantic, if scrappy, goal, but the script-writer could not have timed it more perfectly for the Chelsea stalwart who is set the leave the club at the end of the season, for it was the 100th goal of Chelsea’s season, and 1,000th since Roman Abramovich took over, an era John Terry has been the lynchpin of.

Whilst the goal meant the Chelsea captain has now netted in each of his past 17 top-flight campaigns, he would undo the headlines, at least partially, by a momentary lapse in concentration which followed seconds later. A mix-up between Chalobah and himself when clearing the ball saw Terry head the ball too short back to Begovic and Capoue pounced to score just their second goal in 10 hours of action. Not so romantic after all.

Kante was clearly learning from Fabregas on the training field with a sublime Fabregas-esque  80 yard pass to Hazard, whose first touch let him down before Gomes smothered. The Belgian then was fed another delicious 80 yard ball by Willian, cutting inside but dragging wide of the near post.

Kenedy was seeking to establish himself in Conte’s plans for next season and whilst his shot was cleared by Gomes for a corner, it was from this set-piece Chelsea got their noses in front again. The ball fell kindly to Azpilicueta on the edge of the box and the Chelsea defender picked his spot and hammered it past Gomes from 20 yards for his first Premier League goal since January 2016.

The cushion became two early in the second half when Willian’s left-wing strike brought a good save from Gomes when it was destined to curl in, and from the corner Kenedy was urged to shoot. Whilst he did, he slipped and the stray shot found Ake who was deemed onside and the youngster unselfishly squared to Friday’s hero Batshuayi to tap in.

But Chelsea were clearly in party mode as once again Watford levelled within two minutes, with Jaanmart getting on the scoresheet after cutting in from the left.

Consistent Chelsea passages of play could not yet draw out the fourth goal but the hosts were probing. Hazard and Batshuayi got closest but Gomes saved with his feet from 5 yards, whilst Azpilicueta looked to grab his brace from 20 yards again but Gomes blocked this time.

Batshuayi nearly found Hazard racing clean through but for a last-ditch interception — it would have been a devastating counter attack — but Watford were in the mood to spoil a party when Okaka was introduced. Moments after coming on, the man who has played for Italy under Conte, scored against his former national team manager, latching onto a loose ball from a clever Cleverley dinked ball which none of the Chelsea back-three could deal with.

Conte introduced Aina and Fabregas in response and the latter magic man produced the goods once again, striking perfectly from the edge of the box as the game had one more goal in it.

Prodl got his marching orders in injury time for a second bookable offence, but the confetti came out soon after and the Chelsea fans could properly get into the party mood.

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

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

Man of the Match

JOHN TERRY: I had to. Whilst he did play a big part in Capoue’s equaliser, the Chelsea captain has been a true stalwart and, in his penultimate ever Chelsea game, it was beautiful to see him roll back the years with a Terry-esque goal to break the deadlock. So scrappy but it sums up the Chelsea captain to throw his head at the ball and then be the first on the end of the loose ball to help his team out. A wonderful story. 7/10

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

Manager Reaction

Conte knew the important task had been achieved: “We conceded three goals but we scored four and created many chances. The most important thing was we won. Now we have target to win 30 games. The most important thing was to win the league. Then if we have the possibility to improve these records, we must try. We can reach this target. The players and I want to reach this target.”

Mazzarri enjoyed the spectacle: “I am very proud of my team. We had several players out injured. Congratulations to Antonio Conte because he is a great manager. They have great players. They deserve the title.”

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

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 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 extend lead at top of table to 7 points with 4-2 win against Southampton

Match Summary

Chelsea put the pressure back on second-placed Tottenham with an entertaining 4-2 win against Southampton, extending their lead at the top of the table to 7 points with their title-chasers playing tomorrow.

The Blues continued their fine win against Tottenham at Wembley with a fast start thanks to Hazard’s goal inside five minutes, but ex-Chelsea man Oriol Romeu levelled the score.

Gary Cahill, and then two by Diego Costa, secured the points before another former Chelsea player Ryan Betrand added another consolation.

The win means Chelsea continue to be in pole position with five games remaining, but the lack of clean sheets — none in Chelsea’s last 11 Premier League games — is Chelsea’s worst record for more than two decades and will surely worry Antonio Conte.

Embed from Getty Images

With Costa and Hazard rested for the huge majority of the morale-boosting FA Cup semi-final win against Tottenham just 72 hours earlier, Chelsea’s sharpest men should have been ready from the off.

And they certainly were.

Fabregas’ long ball to Costa was controlled by his fellow Spaniard, before the striker found Hazard in the box. Though the ball was slightly behind the Belgian, Hazard sorted his feet out and swept home the opening goal from 15 yards.

The 26-year-old could have added a second 10 minutes later but curled wide, and how his side was made to pay because Romeu was to pull a goal back half-way through the first-half. Sloppy play from a Southampton corner saw the ball run all the way to the far post to Gabbiadini, and a simple cross to Romeu left the Spaniard with just a tap-in to finish.

Matic nearly replicated his screamer from Saturday, whilst Kante turned into Lionel Messi with a mazy 40-yard run which ultimately bore no fruits. Hazard should have shown more of a killer instinct when one-on-one with Forster, but decided to pull the ball back to thin air.

It looked like both sides would go into the half-time interval honours even, but a Gary Cahill header changed things. Costa had tried to go for the ball with an audacious over-head kick, but captain Cahill barged his striker out of the way in favour of the more robust head. The ball nestled into Forster’s net and Chelsea would go into the half-time break with a different team-talk.

Things got better eight minutes into the second half when the old partnership of Fabregas and Costa linked up once more. The former found the latter, who in all honesty was poorly-marked inside the box, and from a standing start headed the ball past Forster to make it 3-1. It was his first Chelsea goal in eight games, but became his 50th in a Blue shirt.

A period of relative inactivity followed, dictated by Chelsea who were riding comfortably with the two-goal cushion — Pedro and Matic had shots — whilst John Terry was brought on to shore up the defence in the closing stages.

This was the 36-year-old’s first start since November, and comes soon after announcing he is to leave his boyhood club next month. Was this an early send-off?

Still, the football did the talking twice more for the final stages: a superb team goal involving one-twos with Costa and Hazard and then Costa and Pedro saw the forward then take the ball in his stride to fire past Forster to make it 4-1, but the gloss was once more taken off when Ryan Betrand headed home deep in injury time.

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

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

Man of the Match

CESC FABREGAS: Pulls the strings effortlessly. The Spaniard was moved further forward for this game, with Matic and Kante protecting the back-four, and the Spaniard delivered in this more advanced role alongside Hazard, getting into dangerous positions and finding Costa on a number of occasions. Throw in another assist — only Ryan Giggs has more in the Premier League era — and it was all-round another good day for the midfielder and his team. 7/10

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

Manager Reaction

Conte was confident: “It was a good win. Today I have to be pleased with the effort of my players. It wasn’t easy after a tough game against Tottenham. Southampton have good players and play good football. We must be confident for the future. It’s important to look at ourselves and not others.”

Puel understood the differences in quality of the two sides: “We played against a good team. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa made the difference today. I had the privilege to start Hazard at Lille. He has the same quality. He’s a fantastic player. At 16, he was the same.”

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

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 second loss in four games as 2-0 defeat at Manchester United cuts lead to 4 points

Match Summary

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table is slashed to just four points after Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side inflicted a bruising 2-0 defeat.

Mourinho, who has lost both games against Chelsea since taking charge at United, made it third time lucky, with Rashford opening the scoring after seven minutes and Herrera making sure early in the second half.

The Blues, who were unbeaten in 12 matches against Manchester United in all competitions, could have no complaints, with all players conspicuous by their absence for their second wobble in four.

With no shot on target for the first time in a decade, and with Tottenham playing yesterday to a resounding 4-0 win, it blows the title race wide opened, with the two sides coming together at Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final next weekend.

Embed from Getty Images

It was the start Chelsea did not want, before a ball was even kicked. A full-strength squad for Conte yesterday in his pre-match press conference saw two key first-team players injured before the first whistle was even blew, with Courtois declared unfit in the morning and Alonso picking up an injury with ten minutes before kick-off.

Begovic and Zouma was quickly introduced in a make-shift line-up for the visitors, but the Blues were all at sea in the first half.

Despite Manchester United’s top scorer being on the bench, Rashford’s pace was tearing the Blues apart all half. The Englishman was through within just four minutes after another Luiz mistake, whilst Chelsea did not heed their warning three minutes later and were punished.

Herrera broke forward after handling the ball which went unspotted by Bobby Madley, and an inch-perfect ball played forward to Rashford meant all the 19-year-old had to do was keep his composure in front of Begovic, which he duly did. Chelsea have now conceded in tenconsecutive Premier League games, the worst run without a clean sheet since 1996.

It nearly became worse moments later: Pogba’s pass this time evaded Cahill who was causing the errors, but Rashford was wide this time, although he did have another chance when Young broke free on the left and drove a low ball across the Chelsea penalty area. The ball evaded everyone, but Rashford would have had a tap-in given Luiz was on the wrong side of his man.

Chance after chance came for the hosts, and particularly for Rashford, who this time broke free on the left and, but for a crucial intervention by Begovic’s right hand, Lingard would have had another tap-in.

By this time Conte had seen enugh and the back-line was switching once more: Moses was to become the left wing-back and Azpilicueta the right.

That did not arrest the Red Devils’ chances down the centre, with Ashley Young afforded acres of space centre to pick his spot from 18 yards. Fortunately, that spot was Row Z, but it was clear Chelsea was struggling.

A quiet game by Costa with his feet meant he felt he had to make up for it with his mouth, and a series of petulant fouls with Pogba and Rojo brought the Spaniard a yellow card. Bobby Madley, at 31 years of age, is a relative newcomer with the big stage, and has only shown one red card in his last 27 Premier League matches, but Costa had to watch his step for the best part of an hour.

Any attempts by the Spaniard to let his feet do the talking was wayward, with a long-range effort going wide, but with the half-time whistle about to be blown, Antonio Conte will have lots more thinking to do regarding Chelsea’s rearguard, who let Young blaze another shot high and wide but from a glorious central position 15 yards from goal.

Will whatever the Italian had to say at half-time reignite Chelsea’s title hopes, which at this point stands at just a four-point lead?

No: it got worse and worse for the league leaders.

A poor mistake by N’Golo Kante to give the ball away in his penalty area was picked up by Young, who found Herrera. All the Spaniard need to do was drill it goalward, and given the sea of Chelsea men in front of him, Begovic was unsighted to see the ball sail past him via a big deflection off Zouma’s legs.

Lingard and Rashford were running rings around the Chelsea defence and the former nearly had his side’s third, and any Chelsea effort at the other end were ambitious tries from range by Pedro.

Moses was sacrificed for Fabregas as Conte reverted to a back four as Azpilicueta switched back to the left, and the midfielder’s free-kick found Costa perfectly but his striking companion let his assist machine down.

Azpilicueta sent a delicious cross-field ball to Pedro who could not make sufficient contact on the stretch, whilst Mourinho reacted to Conte’s midfield change by shoring up his side with Carrick’s introduction.

A Matic mistake saw Rashford race through but his shot hit the side-netting, whilst Conte upped the ante again by bringing Willian on for Matic.

A melee in the penalty area from a Chelsea corner nearly saw Costa stab home, but any substantial chance came Rashford’s way, weaving in and out of Luiz and nearly sneaking one past Begovic’s near post.

United have only lost once at home in 37 matches in all competitions and the run would continue. Chelsea go again next weekend, against Tottenham of all clubs, in the FA Cup semi-final.

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

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

Man of the Match

NO-ONE: Did anyone do anything? The defence was leaky, the midfield were out-muscled and the attacking trio of Pedro, Hazard and Costa were kept largely anonymous. Add in the fact Courtois and Alonso suffered pre-match injuries, for which their absences may be longer than one game and whom the 5-2-3 relied heavily on, and all-in-all it was a very poor outing in Manchester for Chelsea. 3/10

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

Manager Reaction

Conte admitted his nervousness about the title race situation: “I have concern because we have to work together and find quickly the right ambition to win this title. Tottenham is in good form and playing with enthusiasm, we must find the same. [The fault for today’s loss] is mine. In this case I was not able to do the right motivation. [Manchester United] deserved to win because they showed more desire than us.”

Mourinho was pleased tactically: “Chelsea are the best counter attacking team in the country and we controlled them very well. I do not feel extra joy at beating Chelsea — we beat the leader. It doesn’t matter if the leader is Chelsea or another — we beat them convincingly.”

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

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 maintain seven-point lead at top of table with crucial 2-1 against Manchester City

Match Summary

Chelsea do the double over Manchester City as an Eden Hazard brace maintains Chelsea’s seven-point lead at the top of the table.

A goal inside the first 10 minutes by Hazard set Chelsea on their way, but Aguero was gifted an equaliser by Courtois’ howler. Hazard then scored his second off the rebound from his saved penalty to secure Chelsea precious points on a night where Tottenham won too.

The visitors won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last season, but this loss means Manchester City, who were unbeaten in eight league matches, have now suffered six league defeats in a single season, the first time this has happened to any of Pep Guardiola’s clubs in his managerial career.

Embed from Getty Images

With Antonio Conte keen to not lose consecutive home league games as a head coach since November 2009, the Italian opted for a change of system and personnel: Zouma came in for Matic and dropped into the back three, with Azpilicueta moving to wing-back — Moses is still out injured — and Fabregas pushed further forward.

It was an experiment which started well and brought Chelsea a first goal inside 10 minutes. Hazard started a move he would later finish, swinging the ball wide to Azpilicueta who cut the ball back inside to Hazard, free inside the penalty box and shooting past Caballero, who managed to get a hand on the ball.

Fernandinho then tried his hand from range, whilst Aguero had an opportunity saved by Courtois, having driven 20 yards and sent the Chelsea back-line completely backing off and inviting Aguero in.

Fabregas had a chance to make more secure Chelsea’s lead from a Hazard counter but his central left-footed shot clipped Clichy and looped over Caballero and his bar.

How that would have helped the home fans as moments later the lead was completely wiped out. A howler of a clearance by Courtois brought about a two-on-one opportunity for Manchester City, with Silva finding space for a shot, before Aguero collected the ricochet and tapping home into an empty net. It was a gift of a goal and Aguero, who has four goals in his last three league appearances against Chelsea, was not about to pass it up.

Hazard had a chance straight away to restore his side’s lead, one-on-one with John Stones but Costa was stupid to clash with Delph off the ball, giving Mike Dean no choice but to stop play with Hazard in a state of confusion.

The end-to-end game saw Clichy then slide a ball across the Chelsea back-line as the Blues were losing their shape after City’s equaliser, with the Citizens finding space behind Kante.

But the break the hosts needed soon came from the penalty spot.

Fabregas fed Pedro with a delicate ball and, when Pedro cut back inside, he was felled by Fernandinho right in front of Mike Dean’s eyes for a stone-wall penalty. Whilst Hazard missed, he did gather the rebound to record his 13th goal of the season.

The Blues conceded two quick goals straight after taking the lead at Crystal Palace at the weekend so should have been extra careful after regaining the lead here, but Aguero was allowed to shoot — albeit wide — in further evidence that the visitors were not out of it.

In recognition of that, Conte abandoned his experiment in time for the second-half, with Pedro moving to right wing-back and Matic on for Zouma in the reshuffle, but whilst this system has been used before, it seemed to add even more confusion, at least in the initial stages, as Matic was caught ball-watching when the man he was marking from a free-kick, Vincent Kompany, managed to steer a header onto the crossbar. It was a let-off.

There have been four red cards in the last five league meetings between these sides, with three being shown to City players, but the first booking would only come in the 51st minute when Mike Dean carded Clichy for a careless foul.

The opportunities kept coming and Fernandinho blazed the ball over when five yards out and deemed onside despite replays suggesting he was off, whilst chance after chance continued coming the visitors’ way, with De Bruyne working a smart low free-kick to Sane but to no eventual avail.

Pedro tried to curl a shot in on the 67th minute but really Chelsea had been shutting up shot from around the 55th. Cahill read the situation well to stop Silva feeding in Aguero, but Chelsea had the best opportunity to put the game to bed on a counter-attack soon after. Pedro, Fabregas and Hazard were all each selflessly passing up the opportunity to score and giving the ball to one another, with Hazard eventually blazing over when City had enough men back. It was a chance missed and Conte knew it.

A late City flurry saw Aguero hit the side-netting from a wide angle — a huge chance but not as big as John Stones from two yards out, who failed to get the ball out of his feet in time and fired it high in the ensuing panic.

It was a late let-off for Chelsea, but the Blues preserve their lead — a Guardiola-managed side has never previously lost both league games against the same opponent in a single season — and crucially their seven-point lead.

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

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

Man of the Match

EDEN HAZARD: The magician has sometimes been criticised for not turning up in big matches, but today the Belgian delivered. An early goal settled the nerves and, whilst his penalty was poor, the cool head from the rebound settled the points in the Blues’ favour. The 26-year-old was running rings around the City back-line all evening, and should have secured his hat-trick but for blazing his shot over, before he was substituted to a standing ovation. 8/10

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

Manager Reaction

Conte was pleased the Crystal Palace loss was only a blip: “At this time of the season it is easy to be nervous. There is a lot of pressure. Our reaction [to the weekend loss] was very good. We showed what it is to be a good team. I want to thank to the crowd because they pushed us. When you see your opponents continue to win, you must win to win the title. That is all we have to do.”

Guardiola was honest but spoke of longevity: “In the boxes we are not good enough. We created enough to score goals. It is our problem [but] it is an honour to have the amazing players I have. It is encouraging for the future.” 

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

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.