10th of April 2016

Swans hold Blues away (1-0)

The Blues suffered their first Premier League defeat since December at the Liberty Stadium with Gylfi Sigurdsson scoring the only goal of the game for the home side.

The decisive strike came in the 25th minute when the Swansea midfielder volleyed past Asmir Begovic from just outside the penalty area, and although we had chances to get back into the game, most notably a Pato flick early in the second half, we were unable to find an equaliser.

There were, however, positives to take for the Blues on an afternoon in which there was very little to choose between the sides, in particular the performance of Ruben Loftus-Cheek who looked confident and assured in his attacking midfield role.

The Blues went into the game looking to extend our unbeaten Premier League run to 16 matches, and in particularly impressive form away from home.

We threatened first after just five minutes when Loftus-Cheek, who broke the deadlock a week ago at Villa Park, tested Lukasz Fabianski from just inside the penalty area after good work by Cesc Fabregas and Oscar.

The Brazilian started the game wide on the right-hand side with Pedro on the opposite flank.

Begovic, involved for the first time since our FA Cup win over Scunthorpe, had to be alert to race off his line and collect a ball over the top with Swansea striker Alberto Paloschi on the chase, and the Bosnian goalkeeper then saved low down at the near post from Jefferson Montero.

Loftus-Cheek did well to pounce on a wayward pass deep inside the Swansea half but as the youngster drove towards goal with three opposition players in pursuit it was former Chelsea Academy product Jack Cork who produced the all-important tackle.

Another misplaced pass across the Swansea backline led to our next opportunity when Ashley Williams gave it away to Fabregas. The Spaniard played it out wide to Oscar, whose cross to the near post was deflected behind with Loftus-Cheek set to connect.

As the 20-minute mark approached the game remained goalless but both teams had been positive in their approach play.

Swansea then saw two fantastic opportunities go begging in quick succession, firstly when Begovic produced a fine stop to palm away a stinging Sigurdsson strike from the edge of the box, and again a minute later after Angel Rangel broke into the penalty area but rolled his strike inches wide of the far post.

The Blues were playing some attractive, one-touch football in the Swansea half, with Fabregas,Oscar and Loftus-Cheek all heavily involved.

Oscar, who scored a brace in last season’s corresponding fixture, was causing left-back Neil Taylor a number of problems. One particular piece of skill took him away from the defender and his cross to the far post was an inviting one. Pato arrived but couldn’t bring the ball under control in time to get his shot away.

From the next attack of note, however, it was Swansea who took the lead.

Montero had been real thorn in our side on the opening day of the season at Stamford Bridge in the 2-2 draw, and he’d started this game in similar fashion.

As he delivered from wide on the left-hand side Miazga headed clear, but the ball fell invitingly for Sigurdsson, positioned just outside the penalty area, who crashed a left-footed volley past Begovic into the bottom corner.

Having started the game quite well from a defensive perspective mistakes were beginning to creep in and Williams should have done better when he passed up a free header in front of goal.

Begovic did well to make the save after Montero’s cross had deflected off Azpilicueta, and the Chelsea ‘keeper was again called into action to deny Andre Ayew.

Both right-backs – Cesar Azpilicueta and Rangel – were then shown yellow cards in quick succession for fouls on Montero and Baba respectively, and they were followed into the book by Miazga and Neil Taylor, the latter for an awful challenge on Loftus-Cheek.

While the Blues were seeing plenty of the ball, we were struggling to penetrate the Swansea back four.

We finally got in behind them on the stroke of half-time when Fabregas spotted a clever run by Oscar. His strike, on the turn, was charged down, and while the rebound landed at the feet of Pato he dragged his effort well wide.

Kenedy was introduced for Miazga at the break, a switch which led to Oscar dropping into a deeper midfield role alongside Fabregas and the substitute playing out wide on the right. John Mikel Obi, meanwhile, slotted into central defence.

We were quickly on the front foot as the second half began and a direct, inventive run by Loftus-Cheek came to a halt when his left-footed strike was deflected behind for a corner.
Pato then had the ball in the back of the net but the strike was ruled out after he was adjudged to have controlled Fabregas‘s pass with his arm.
Moments later Pato could, and should, have drawn us level at the end of a flowing move.
Oscar played it on to Loftus-Cheek who drove at the retreating Swansea defenders before switching it out to Pedro on the left. The winger rolled it across the face of goal but Pato opted for the flick and saw the ball roll agonisingly wide.

It was a bright opening to the second half from an attacking point of view but Begovic was quickly called upon once more, saving brilliantly from a fierce Cork drive which was made all the more difficult as it bounced up off the ground in front of him at pace.

Mikel, by this time playing in an unfamiliar position, produced a brilliant block to deny Sigurdsson after the Icelandic midfielder had reacted quickest to latch on to a loose ball inside the Chelsea penalty area.

With 63 minutes on the clock Hiddink made his second change of the afternoon, a straight swap up front with Bertrand Traore replacing Pato.

Loftus-Cheek was impressing for the Blues, at the heart of all of our attacking play, and the midfielder was unfortunate to see another effort deflected behind after he’d displayed fantastic awareness and desire to win the ball initially.

It was to be Loftus-Cheek‘s last involvement as with 16 minutes left to play he was replaced by Falcao, who was making his first appearance since October.

Swansea had a glorious opportunity to all but put the game out of reach but Montero headed over the bar from close range with the goal at his mercy after Sigurdsson had lifted it over Begovic as the ‘keeper attempted to narrow the angle.

As the clock ticked down two of our substitutes combined to carve out a decent opportunity; Traore picked out the run of Falcao with an intelligent slide-rule pass, but a deflection took the sting out of the striker’s effort, making it a comfortable save for Fabianski.

The longest unbeaten run in the Premier League this season comes to an end but there will be elements of the performance which pleased Guus Hiddink, particularly with so many senior players unavailable.

Attention now turns to next Saturday’s evening kick-off against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

 

- Match stats:

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Begovic; Azpilicueta, Miazga (Kenedy h/t), Ivanovic (c), Baba; Mikel, Fabregas;Pedro, Loftus-Cheek (Falcao 74), Oscar; Pato (Traore 63)
Unused subs: Courtois, Aina, Colkett, Palmer
Booked Azpilicueta 35, Miazga 39, Pedro 70

Swansea (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Rangel, Fernandez, Williams (c), Taylor; Cork, Fer; Sigurdsson, Ayew (Routledge 66), Montero (Naughton 84) ; Paloschi (Gomis 74).
Unused subs: Nordfeldt, Amat, Ki, Barrow
Scorer Sigurdsson 25
Booked Cork 29, Taylor 42, Paloschi 69, Fer 78

Referee Andre Marriner

- Match report by chelseafc.com


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