By, Ugo Nwogwugwu
Tuesday 12th December, John Smith’s Stadium – Freezing weather, pouring rain, unbelievably enthusiastic home crowd, good times! It was a quick return to action in the Premier League. Chelsea played Huddersfield Town in their second away game in four days.
Chelsea had lost their last game against West Ham United. They started too slowly, the opposition scored and for the first time in the league since October, they couldn’t find their way back into the game. West Ham had ended an unbeaten run in which Chelsea had banked 19 of 21 available points.
Fortunately for Chelsea though, the teams around them weren’t able to take advantage. Manchester United lost their derby, Liverpool drew theirs, and Arsenal were held by Southampton.
Despite recent losses to Everton, Arsenal and Manchester City, Huddersfield were enjoying a pretty good start to their Premier League season. The two-nil win v Brighton in their last game had lifted them to twelfth place in the league, level on points with Southampton.
Huddersfield manager David Wagner had winger Rajiv van La Parra back from suspension; he was on the bench today but Kasey Palmer was ineligible to play against his parent club. Jon Gorenc-Stankovic, Michael Hefele and Philip Billing were still out injured.
Chelsea switched from 3-5-2 to a 3-4-3, and made four changes to their previous game’s line-up – Victor Moses started, Antonio Rudiger replaced Gary Cahill at left center back and Cesc Fabregas dropped to the bench.
Top scorer Alvaro Morata missed the game through fatigue and a back problem, but Michy Batshuayi didn’t start in his place. Eden Hazard started centrally, with Willian and Pedro either side of him in attack. Danny Drinkwater missed the West Ham game with an illness, but he was on the bench for the start of this game.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Lossl 5.5, Lowe 4 (Hadergjonaj 6.5), Schindler 5, Jorgenson 5.5, Smith 5, Williams 5.5, Hogg 5 (Whitehead 5), Mooy 6.5, Kachunga 5.5, Ince 6, Mounie 5 (Depoitre 7)
Subs Coleman, Cranie, Whitehead, Quaner, Hadergjonaj, van La Parra, Depoitre
Courtois 6, Moses 6.5, Azpilicueta 7.5, Christensen 8, Rudiger 6, Alonso 8, Kante 7, Bakayoko 7.5, Willian 7.5, Pedro 7, Hazard 7.5
Subs Caballero, Cahill, Ampadu, Fabregas, Drinkwater, Musonda, Batshuayi
A Bit Lucky, But They Won’t Mind
Huddersfield defended deep from kick-off, and they didn’t provide much of a counterattacking threat either. Chelsea had all the possession they wanted, but because of the lack of a strong center forward presence they found it difficult to create clear scoring chances. The game needed a flash of quality, a defensive error or some good luck to get things going.
Pedro had the ball in the net just five minutes in but it was ruled out, he was clearly offside. Five minutes later Huddersfield had a decent chance themselves when Aaron Mooy struck a volley from the edge of the area, but it came back out off Cesar Azpilicueta.
Then on 22 minutes, Chelsea found that little bit of luck they were looking for. Home keeper Jonas Lossl mishit a clearance under pressure from Pedro, and Victor Moses headed the ball back up the pitch to Eden Hazard.
Hazard made a one touch pass to Willian, who dribbled inside before putting a through ball in for Tiemoue Bakayoko. The big midfielder took it to the by-line, then chipped over Lossl and into the path of an onrushing Chris Lowe, who bundled the ball in for an own goal.
Crosses Zipping Everywhere
Bakayoko had a chance to make it two soon afterwards – Willian crossed a free kick into the box for him, but his header was just wide. Then a couple of minutes before halftime, Willian scored himself. It was a simple looking goal, but it must’ve taken a quite a bit of skill and accuracy to make it happen.
Azpilicueta played a diagonal cross-field pass from the halfway line to Marcos Alonso on the left wing. Then Alonso crossed to the far post for Willian, who got past Lowe a bit too easily and nodded the ball down into the net for 2 – 0.
If Chris Lowe was trialling for Chelsea, he might’ve gotten a contract on tonight’s performance. Pedro had a great chance to score Chelsea’s third, when Hazard took possession of a pass (backpass?) from Lowe. He played a through ball to Pedro who was running in left of him, but Lossl closed him down and saved his shot.
And then five minutes into the second half, Pedro did score. His form had dipped a little bit recently, probably from lack of game time, but he had worked hard tonight and fortunately got a reward for his efforts.
The goal came from another Marcos Alonso cross. Willian tried to knock it in first, but the ball came back to him off Christopher Schindler, so he laid it back to Pedro, who was lurking unmarked just inside the area. Pedro rifled a shot right of the keeper for 3 – 0.
Eden Hazard might have made it four, when he made another interception from the right wing and raced into the box. He tried to nutmeg the keeper, but he couldn’t quite pull it off.
Huddersfield had a few more opportunities after Antonio Conte pulled Hazard, Kante and Christensen for Batshuayi, Drinkwater and Ethan Ampadu. Mathias Jorgensen tried a shot from distance but it was just over the bar.
It looked like a straightforward 3 – 0 Chelsea win… until injury time, when Florent Hadergjonaj whipped a cross in for Laurent Depoitre, who glanced it into the bottom corner for 3 – 1. Conte will not have been pleased with Rudiger, who didn’t challenge strongly enough to put Depoitre off. Thibaut Courtois was definitely furious not to keep a clean sheet.
Taking Their Chances
Huddersfield might have made it easy, but Chelsea took their chances today. It’s easy to take that for granted, but recently they’ve struggled with converting their opportunities. Anyway, they’re back on three-point trail now! Next up, home game v Southampton FC.
Final Score Huddersfield 1 – 3 Chelsea
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Daily Mail
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