Wednesday 31st January, Stamford Bridge – It was a quick return to action for Chelsea in the Premier League, and AFC Bournemouth were their visitors for tonight’s game.
Bournemouth were in pretty good form, in the league at least. They were 13th in the table, and unbeaten in the five games since a 4 – 0 loss to Manchester City just before Christmas. There had been two draws with West Ham home and away, another with Brighton, and two home wins over Everton and Arsenal.
Chelsea were up in 3rd position, where they’d been a lot of this season so far. They were level on points with Liverpool but had a game in hand, this one. They were also unbeaten in their last five league games, but they only had one more win than Bournemouth in that frame: two draws vs Arsenal and Leicester, three wins over Brighton (home and away) and Stoke City.
Tyrone Mings and Jermain Defoe were out injured for Bournemouth, but Junior Stanislas started and Josh King was on the bench.
David Luiz, Alvaro Morata and Willian were all unavailable for selection, but Thibaut Courtois was back in the line-up for Chelsea, having recovered from his ankle injury.
The January transfer window would close after tonight’s game, but Chelsea had managed to check off their key boxes – more depth in midfield (Ross Barkley), a backup striker (Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud) and a backup left wing back (Emerson Palmieri from Roma).
Michy Batshuayi, Kenedy and Charly Musonda also got the chance to temporarily continue their development away from the club, moving out on loan to Borussia Dortmund, Newcastle and Celtic respectively.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Courtois 4, Zappacosta 5.5 (Hudson-Odoi 6), Azpilicueta 4, Christensen 6 (Rudiger 5), Cahill 3, Alonso 6, Kante 6, Bakayoko 4, Pedro 5.5, Barkley 6 (Fabregas 4.5), Hazard 6.5
Subs Caballero, Moses, Rudiger, Ampadu, Fabregas, Drinkwater, Hudson-Odoi
Begovic 8.5, Fraser 7, Francis 8, S Cook 8, Ake 8.5, Daniels 7.5, L Cook 8, Gosling 7.5, Ibe 8.5 (Pugh 6), Stanislas 8.5 (King 6.5), Wilson 9 (Mousset NR)
Subs Boruc, Surman, Pugh, Arter, King, Mousset, Simpson
Plenty Of Effort But No Finish(er)
Just like Newcastle United in Chelsea’s previous game, Bournemouth started with the intent to press Chelsea relentlessly all over the pitch, and break forward once they forced a turnover. It was pretty effective tactic, especially in the absence of a true striker up top – Giroud was not yet eligible to play for his new club.
Chelsea couldn’t move the ball up effectively with their short passing, and when they went long, there was no target man in front to fight for possession, hold up play and bring others into the game.
In possession Bournemouth also played absolutely without fear of Chelsea’s abilities on the counter-attack, and strangely for the pace of the attacking personnel on the pitch, Chelsea did not make them pay for their audacity.
Eden Hazard curved in a gentle cross early on, but neither Barkley nor Zappacosta could get to the ball. Courtois saved and held a long distance shot from Charlie Daniels. Pedro put a long range shot of his own well over the bar.
Andreas Christensen went off with a hamstring injury on 28 minutes. A couple of minutes later, Gary Cahill put a header just over the bar from five yards out. It was Chelsea’s best chance of the first half, but Nathan Ake did just enough to prevent Cahill from converting the corner.
Steve Cook lost possession to Pedro right on the edge of his penalty box, but he got back and managed to clear the ball just before Hazard got to it. Marcos Alonso headed a Zappacosta cross just wide of the post. There was a lot of effort from both teams, but no finish – and the first half ended goalless.
The second half was all Bournemouth. They scored goal after goal on the fast break, and with each goal, their hosts looked more and more ineffectual.
Tiemoue Bakayoko gave away possession to Callum Wilson in midfield. Wilson passed to Jordon Ibe, who returned the ball to him with a delightful through ball that put the striker in behind Gary Cahill. Wilson was one on one with Courtois now and he made no mistake, calmly rolling the ball under the keeper’s body and into the net for 1 – 0.
Spicy Nutmeg Soup
Wilson held the ball up left of midfield, before exchanging passes with Junior Stanislas to leave Gary Cahill behind in a cloud of exhaust fumes.
Antonio Rudiger and Cahill tried to close Wilson down, but having drawn them both, he sent the ball back to Stanislas, who had escaped Azpilicueta’s attentions to find himself one-on-one with Courtois. Stanislas showed remarkable composure on his finish, poking the ball between Courtois’s legs for the second goal 2 – 0.
It was abysmal defending (and goalkeeping) from players that have been outstanding at times for Chelsea the past two seasons.
That Kind Of Night
Only one thing hadn’t happened that usually happens in games like this: an ex-Chelsea player scoring against his old club. And then of course it did happen.
The Chelsea defence just couldn’t clear an Ibe corner. The ball went from Daniels at the far post to Stanislas, and he took a shot that was going wide – but Ake, who had been left completely unmarked by Cahill (again), cut in and redirected the ball into the net for 3 – 0.
Less One Coach
In tonight’s program notes, Roman Abramovich invited Chelsea fans to join him in taking a stand for inclusion and diversity, and saying no to Anti-Semitism. Many supporters will choose to remember the occasion for Roman’s words and leadership – they definitely will not want to think about the football.
Bournemouth took Chelsea apart with deliberate, surgical skill, and frankly, the home team never looked like scoring. Yes, there were mitigating circumstances, and the players let their manager down really. But a three-nil home defeat to a smaller club ten places down the log is always hard to explain. Hopefully, Chelsea don’t find themselves less one title winning manager in the next few weeks.
Final Score Chelsea 0 – 3 Bournemouth
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Metro UK
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