The Run Starts Here
Saturday 28th October, Vitality Stadium – Chelsea travelled to Dorset for their Premier League game against AFC Bournemouth. It was only the second away game of their five fixtures in October.
Under normal circumstances, the EPL champions would have been favourites for this fixture – they were 5th and Bournemouth 19th as at the start of play. But Chelsea had been well beaten by the bottom club in the league, Crystal Palace, in their other away game this month. In fact, they had not kept a single clean sheet in October, conceding an average of 2 goals per game across their other four fixtures. If they were to have any hope of retaining their title, Chelsea would have to start defending better and find some winning form pretty soon.
On the other hand, Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth had been showing some good form recently. They’d won two and drawn one of their last five games, including a 2 – 1 away win over Stoke the previous Saturday, and a midweek 3 – 1 victory over Championship side Middlesbrough in the Carabao Cup. The week before that, they’d been unlucky to lose 1 – 0 away to Tottenham. They would definitely not be pushovers today.
Ryan Fraser and Josh King were left out for Bournemouth through injury, but Jermaine Defoe had recovered from a hamstring problem, and started this game. Victor Moses was out injured, but N’golo Kante had returned to training for Chelsea – he was not however, included in the squad for today’s game.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Begovic 7, Smith 6, Steve Cook 7.5, Ake 7, Francis 5.5, Daniels 6, Lewis Cook 6, Surman 6, Stanislas 5.5 (Pugh), Defoe 5.5 (Ibe 6), Afobe 6.5 (Wilson 5)
Subs Boruc, Arter, Pugh, Mousset, Gosling, Ibe, Wilson
Courtois 7, Zappacosta 7, Rudiger 7.5, Luiz 7, Azpilicueta 8, Alonso 7, Fabregas 7, Bakayoko 7, Pedro 6 (Drinkwater 6.5), Hazard 8 (Willian 5.5), Morata 7 (Batshuayi 6.5)
Subs Caballero, Cahill, Christensen, Ampadu, Drinkwater, Willian, Batshuayi
Bournemouth set up from the start to absorb pressure and play disciplined, defensive football, and although Chelsea dominated possession and chances, Bournemouth were effective at containing their visitors in the first half.
Pedro dribbled past ex-Chelsea defender Nathan Ake for an early opportunity, but blazed his shot high at the end of the move. Alvaro Morata had been working hard to recover form since his hamstring injury, but he wasn’t quite there yet for this game. Eden Hazard created some great chances for him in the first half, but he was unable to take advantage.
For the first, Hazard got to the byline and crossed for him, but Morata put his finish wide under pressure from Bournemouth keeper Asmir Begovic. In the second, Hazard got possession in Bournemouth’s final third and put Morata through for what should have been an easy finish, but again his shot curled just wide of goal. Morata did eventually get the ball in the net, off a trademark Chelsea short corner on 27 minutes. Unfortunately the goal was wrongly ruled offside, as Cesar Azpilicueta was deemed to be interfering with play.
Benik Afobe almost got through on a rare Bournemouth counterattack, when he passed to Daniels on the left and received the ball back in the box. He tried a shot but Azpilicueta closed him down and the ball went out for a corner.
Morata made and almost finished another fantastic opportunity for himself – he received the ball back to goal from Hazard, rolled his defender, drifted left and took a vicious shot. It was on target this time, but Begovic produced a brilliant reaction save to keep it out. Shortly afterward, Pedro put in another low cross for Fabregas in the six-yard box, but Steve Cook intervened twice to prevent him from scoring.
Then finally, early in the second half Chelsea made their breakthrough. The goal came off a long ball from Morata in the center circle. Simon Francis attempted to intercept the pass but failed to connect with the ball, and it fell for Hazard on the left, just outside the penalty area. Hazard stormed forward, looked up, and arrowed a shot past Begovic at the near post.
After the goal Bournemouth tried to get forward and create chances themselves, but Chelsea’s defending was much better than it had been in their previous games – maybe the players were benefiting from being rested during the midweek league cup game. On one of their counters, Jordon Ibe took a pretty good shot from just outside the D, but Rudiger got a slight touch and the ball went over the bar.
One Touch Football
As the second half wore on, Chelsea began to play some nice one-touch football. After an exchange of passes with Fabregas, Pedro got the ball in the box but his shot was straight at Begovic. In another move, Hazard held the ball up just left of goal, then slipped a through pass to Fabregas, who had run outside of him. If Fabregas kept his composure he might have scored, but he flashed his shot across goal and the opportunity was wasted.
Eddie Howe had substituted Jermaine Defoe for Ibe at halftime, and halfway through the second period Afobe was taken off as well. Yet as the match wound down Bournemouth became more threatening – they had a glorious chance to equalize in injury time: Ibe centered the ball for Andy Surman, and he passed to Smith in the box, who then laid it back for Steve Cook. Cook curled a shot in but fortunately for Chelsea it was straight at Courtois, and he saved and held it. Although Bournemouth had tried seven shots in the game, this was their first and only shot on target.
At Long Last, A Clean Sheet
And so the game ended in a narrow away win, and with the three points Chelsea returned to fourth place in the EPL table. They’d also succeeded in keeping their first clean sheet in the seven games since beating Stoke City back in September.
Final Score Bournemouth 0 – 1 Chelsea
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the top menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Metro