Demba Ba reignited Chelsea’s title hopes after following up his crucial Champions League goal against PSG with the winner at Swansea.
Chelsea struggled to break down the Swans, who played most of the game with 10 men. Despite having several chances many were wasted as Swansea defended deep and in numbers hoping to hit the visitors on the break in an attempt to match Aston Villa and Crystal Palace’s victories over Chelsea in recent weeks. Ba eventually scored what proved to be the winner after 68 minutes.
Chelsea went into the game knowing that Liverpool had beaten Manchester City at Anfield, a result which could be highly significant for the Blues’ title hopes. A win would put them just two points off the top of the table, five points clear of City, with a clash against Liverpool to come later this month.
Chelsea went looking for the win with Tuesday’s hero Ba handed a rare start, but he was quiet in the early stages of the game. Chelsea were still without Eden Hazard, who went off injured last Tuesday, and it was his replacement Mohammed Salah who went close early on. The Egyptian saw his effort hit the post from Branislav Ivanovic’s cross after just five minutes.
After just 15 minutes, Swansea were reduced to 10 men when Chico Flores picked up a second booking for a clumsy challenge on Andre Schurrle. Flores had been booked for a cynical foul on Willian just a minute before. Chelsea used this to their advantage, dominating the first half. Salah missed another good chance, but Chelsea didn’t make too many clear cut opportunities.
Samuel Eto’o and Oscar came on after the break, with Ramires and Schurrle making way. The change worked and Ba and Eto’o both went close, but couldn’t find a breakthrough. With time ticking away, Chelsea finally made their possession count. Nemanja Matic, who looked assured in midfield once again, played a long pass through to Ba who controlled brilliantly and fired past Michel Vorm.
Chelsea couldn’t find a second, despite having chances, but they held on to get an unimpressive but vital three points.
Jose Mourinho didn’t appear for the post match press conference, and he sent first team coach Steve Holland in his place. Holland was glad to finally get a win against the Swans, and gave an update on Hazard’s fitness.
“I’ve been here three times with Chelsea without winning before today. Swansea can frustrate you. They’re good at retaining possession.” Holland said.
“The title is still in Manchester City’s hands if they win all their games. We’ve still got a Champions League semi-final to look forward to as well. That’s what Chelsea are all about, playing in the big games.”
On Hazard, Holland said he, “should be fit sooner rather than later, we can’t say for sure when, but a week’s break is good for us.”
LCN Man of the Match: Nemanja Matic