Saturday 28th April, Liberty Stadium – Chelsea were in Wales to play Swansea City for Saturday’s late premier league kick-off. There were just four games left till the end of the league season. Five games before the onset of withdrawal symptoms for Chelsea fans, including the FA Cup Final.
Swansea City were in some danger: they were 17th in the table on 33 points, one point and one place above the relegation line, and with two games left to play against two clubs below them, Southampton and Stoke City.
The Swans had picked up just three points in their last five games, from draws with Huddersfield Town (0-0), West Bromwich Albion (1-1) and Everton (1-1). They’d also lost to Manchester United (2-0) at the end of March, and Manchester City (5-0) in their most recent game.
The defending league champions were at the other end of the table, up in 5th on 63 points, but seeing out a disappointing season by their standards. There was a slight chance of catching up with Tottenham or Liverpool in the champions league places, slightly enhanced by Liverpool’s recent draws with West Brom (2-2) and Stoke (0-0), but Conte’s team would probably have to win all their remaining games to take it.
Swansea and Chelsea both lined up in a 3-5-2 to start the game. Alvaro Morata, Willian and Pedro were on the bench for Chelsea, and Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard were the attackers up front. Cesc Fabregas, Tiemoue Bakayoko and N’golo Kante had midfield, and Emerson Palmieri continued at left back, as Marcos Alonso served out the last game of his suspension.
Chelsea team: Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill (c), Rudiger; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Fabregas, Emerson; Hazard, Giroud.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 28, 2018
Connor Roberts made his premier league debut on the right wing for Swansea, and Carlos Carvalhal also brought in Sam Clucas alongside Andy King and Ki Sung-Yueng in midfield. Tammy Abraham, on loan from Chelsea, was ineligible to play against his parent club.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Fabianski 7, Naughton 6, van der Hoorn 6, Mawson 6, Ki 6.5, King 6 (Dyer 6.5), Clucas 6.5, Olsson 5.5 (Routledge 6.5), Roberts 5 (Carroll 7.5), Jordan Ayew 7, Andre Ayew 7
Subs Nordfeldt, Rangel, Routledge, Carroll, Dyer, Britton, Sanches
Courtois 7.5, Moses 7, Azpilicueta 8, Cahill 7.5, Rudiger 7, Emerson 7, Kante 8, Fabregas 8(Pedro 5.5), Bakayoko 6.5, Hazard 8 (Willian 5.5), Giroud 6 (Morata 5.5)
Subs Caballero, Zappacosta, Christensen, Barkley, Pedro, Willian, Morata
The game was played in pretty difficult conditions, with rain coming down hard at the Liberty Stadium. It slowed the game down and contributed to numerous errors in possession for both sides.
Chelsea fans might have been justifiably worried about the pace and energy of Swansea’s attacking pair, brothers and Ghanaian internationals Andre and Jordan Ayew. However Carvalhal sat his team a bit too deep trying to absorb Chelsea pressure, and due to their tactics (and possibly the weather) Swansea barely had an impact on the first half, in an attacking sense.
Magic No. 50
Cesc Fabregas opened proceedings for Chelsea, scoring what turned out to be the winning goal just three minutes into the game. Andy King spilled possession to Kante in midfield, and he passed to Hazard, who skipped a tackle from Ki before slipping a through ball to the edge of the area. Fabregas had clear sight of goal and he hit it first time, curling a left footed shot past Lukasz Fabianski and into the top corner for 1-0.
Left foot, top corner… A 'magic' finish from @cesc4official! 👌🎩
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 28, 2018
It was Fabregas’ 50th premier league goal. He joins Fernando Torres (85) and Diego Costa (52) as the only three Spanish players to make it to the 50 goal mark in the EPL.
Chelsea continued to dominate play through the rest of the first half, with 55% possession and 5 attempts to Swansea’s 2, but by half time Fabregas’ goal remained the only shot on target from either side.
Carvalhal subbed on Nathan Dyer, Tom Carroll and Wayne Routledge at different points in the second half, and as the game wore on the Swans upped the pressure on their visitors, but they simply could not find a finish.
Andre Ayew sprinted in to connect with a cross just outside the six yard box, but he headed wide under heavy pressure from Antonio Rudiger. Nathan Dyer got in on the right wing after Emerson slipped, but Cesar Azpilicueta slid in to block his shot.
Victor Moses almost scored Chelsea’s second after some more brilliant play from Hazard in the box: Fabregas whipped a cross in but Moses turned the ball just wide of the post from close range.
Tom Carroll slid a neat pass to the edge of the area, but Andre Ayew curled his shot just outside the post. The home fans were left howling for a penalty after Gary Cahill made a tackle on Dyer to intercept a Ki Sung-Yueng pass, but ref Jon Moss waved play on.
Alfie Mawson tried a shot from distance but it was straight at Courtois, easy save. Tom Carroll had another chance after good play from Sam Clucas, but his shot went just past the post. A few minutes later Carroll turned provider, setting up Wayne Routledge in the box, but Courtois pulled off a fine save from close range.
There was a little bit of nastiness in injury time from Jordan Ayew, as he barged into Gary Cahill from behind, almost causing the Chelsea skipper a whiplash injury. Fortunately Cahill was able to recover and see out the rest of the game with his team.
It wasn’t the best quality football (probably down to the weather) but the Blues left for London with all three points. It was Chelsea’s third successive league win, and their first clean sheet in eight games since a 3-0 win v West Brom in February.
Despite the doom and gloom around Chelsea’s season, manager Antonio Conte also hit a pretty big milestone:
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 28, 2018
Chelsea are now only two points behind Tottenham, who play Watford on Monday. They’re also six points behind next week’s opponents Liverpool FC with a game in hand. Swansea play AFC Bournemouth next Saturday.
Final Score Swansea 0-1 Chelsea
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Talksport
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