Swansea 1-1 Chelsea: Blues Lose Their Attacking Spark
Chelsea conceded a late goal at the Liberty Stadium as Swansea staged a well-earned comeback that ensured the spoils were shared in south Wales on Saturday.
Chelsea conceded a late goal at the Liberty Stadium as Swansea staged a well-earned comeback that ensured the spoils were shared in south Wales.
Roberto Di Matteo’s men failed to impress as his side conceded the lead to draw 1-1 in a game that hardly set the sky alight on a cold early November evening. It took till the second half for the game’s first goal, Victor Moses claiming his first league goal for the Blues. Swansea enforced their possession game on the visitors but it seemed the Swans would not find the spark that would compliment their play. However with just two minutes of normal time to play, Pablo Hernandez struck from the edge of the area to earn Swansea a point.
Even with first placed Man Utd beating Arsenal earlier that day, Chelsea knew they could end the day having reclaimed top spot with nothing less than three points at the Liberty Stadium. Changes were made to the Chelsea starting XI after their mid-week Capital One Cup win against Man Utd, most noticeably the previously suspended Fernando Torres coming in for Daniel Sturridge whilst one of the shining lights from Wednesday’s defeat, Eden Hazard, also started.
Chances were hard to come by in a first half that was just edged by the easy-on-the-eye style of Swansea, whilst Chelsea struggled to find the fluency that had rocketed them to the Premier League’s number one spot. The Blues did have the first real chance of the game on 12 minutes when Leon Britton cleared Torres’ header from a corner off the line.
The Spaniard would go close with a number of headed efforts that lacked the power or precision to beat keeper Gerhard Tremmel, and Chelsea struggled to impose themselves as an attacking threat. Swansea on the other hand passed like a team brimming with confidence, something the visitors were clearly lacking in this game. However the Swans demonstrated a similar kind of impotence in front of goal, and were accused in some quarters of over-playing where a direct ball would suffice. One such instance nearly led to the opener as Hernandez chipped over the Chelsea back line after some engaging play only for the usually clinical Michu to miss-cue.
The game came to life in the second half when after a personal duel between Hazard and Tremmel in which the Belgian forced two saves from the Swans keeper, Chelsea took the lead. Hazard’s free kick was spectacularly saved, and from the resulting corner Moses turned in from close range. Gary Cahill’s towering header was goal-bound but the 21-year old U21 international reacted quickly to head the effort onto the post and in. It was the ex-Wigan man’s first league goal in Chelsea blue, in his very first league start.
Micahel Laudrup in response introduced Danny Graham and Nathan Dyer as the home side pushed for an equaliser. Chelsea’s goal had seemingly done nothing to settle their nerves and the home fans sensing this bayed for blood. Jonathan de Guzman forced a smart save from Petr Cech with a long range drive while substitute Dyer also went close with a cross-cum-shot.
But the home fans who braved the wintry conditions at the Liberty Stadium were not to go home disappointed when Hernandez received the ball on the edge of the box and curled an unstoppable shot into Cech’s left-hand corner.
Chelsea’s week nearly went from bad to worse- despite their extra-time mid-week triumph- as Swansea pressed for a deserved winner. Cahill was alert to Graham’s effort in the dying minutes which ensures Chelsea remain in touching distance of league leaders Man Utd.
After a turbulent week at Stamford Bridge -where defeat last Sunday against Man Utd in the dying minutes was followed by an allegation against referee Mark Clattenburg as well as Capital One Cup drama that saw the Blues come from behind in a 9 goal thriller- Chelsea appear to be rocked for the first time this campaign. A near-perfect start to the season has dipped somewhat: their usual attacking verve has been missing in moments of need (like at the Liberty Stadium) whilst un-characteristic defensive errors have let slip priceless leads.
If di Matteo’s men plan on over-hauling Man Utd by the season’s end they had best start to learn how to hold onto slender leads and keep their attacking spark lit on away days to south Wales on wet and wintry Saturday afternoons.
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