Chelsea suffered yet another defeat on Saturday, leaving them just three points above the relegation zone. Bournemouth were the first promoted team to win at Stamford Bridge since 2001, a result that delighted the travelling fans, but which heaps more pressure on the Blues and Jose Mourinho in particular. With a 14-point gap between them and the top four, is it time to write off the Champions League ambitions?
Once again Mourinho decided to play without a striker, leaving Eden Hazard as a false nine. John Terry was missing, but Thibaut Courtois returned to the team, as Asmir Begovic dropped to the bench. While it was tough on the Bosnian, having the Belgian back in goal seemed to be a comfort to the Chelsea defence early on. Abdul Baba Rahman and Branislav Ivanovic played at full back.
The Blues made a pretty sluggish start, as they were almost caught out from Bournemouth breaks on a couple of occasions. The team weren’t doing enough to pressure the visiting players, and the Cherries probably couldn’t believe how easy a ride they were getting. Eddie Howe’s men didn’t go ahead in the first half, but they probably deserved to.
Despite that, most would have had their money on a home win at half time. The arrival of Diego Costa into the game would only have added to the feeling that the home side would prevail, as the Spaniard replaced Oscar to give Chelsea a presence up top. Costa failed to make much of a difference, however, as he snarled through the 45 minutes without adding much bite.
The rest of the team did push for a goal, but they just weren’t good enough overall to break down a resilient Bournemouth team. Heading in to the last stages of the game, Glenn Murray popped up with a goal for the south coast side, which gave them a famous victory.
After the game Mourinho talked about his side’s performance, and a possible readjustment in their aims for the season. “The result is not fair,” he said. “In the first half we were soft and did not press and were not aggressive and were not intense. In the second half everything changed. We were aggressive, created chances and had crosses and a clear penalty that the referee did not see. That is the game.
“Before this game it was realistic to think that our quality would take us out of this position but maybe now we have to think about top six.”
Next up for Chelsea is a Champions League game against Porto. They have to avoid defeat to make it through to the last 16, while a loss would see them drop in to the Europa League. Given their recent league form, this week might be their last game in the Champions League for quite a while if they fall to another defeat, as a return next season doesn’t seem to be on the cards.
LCN Man of the Match: Kurt Zouma