Chelsea kept pace in the title race with an ill-tempered 1-0 home win over a resolute Swansea City side. Paul Clement’s side failed to register a shot on target in the whole game and they were camped in their half for lengthy periods of the game, but the Blues finally found a way through to extend their Premier League unbeaten run to six games.
David Luiz missed out once again, whilst Cesar Azpilicueta was rested ahead of a hectic-looking schedule for the Blues. This meant that the physical trio of Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill were entrusted with keeping the limited Swansea threat at bay. Cesc Fabregas returned to the starting XI after being left out at Anfield last time out, whilst Pedro and Willian were brought in to replace Eden Hazard and Tiemoue Bakayoko to give some much-needed width to the Blues’ play.
Swansea’s game plan frustrated the Blues, who fashioned their first real opportunity in the ninth minute as a swinging Willian free-kick just whizzed past the Swansea post before good pressure in the Swans’ half forced an error that Davide Zappacosta seized upon, but his shot went straight at Lukasz Fabianski – the first in a string of saves by the Polish international. Chelsea stepped up their intensity in the 27th minute as Cesc Fabregas’s clever through-ball was acrobatically volleyed towards goal by Alvaro Morata but Swansea keeper Łukasz Fabiański was more than equal to the strike.
Frustration boils over as Conte receives marching orders
The pressure was beginning to tell before the end of the half as Willian and Pedro were starting to see more of the ball and the duo combined in the 41st minute with the Brazilian Willian fizzing a ball across the face of goal that just eluded Pedro at the near post. The ball trickled out of play and a goal kick was awarded despite the last touch appearing to come off Alfie Mawson; a decision which Antonio Conte was incandescent about and the Italian made his feelings known to the fourth official vociferously. Referee Neil Swarbrick felt Conte’s behaviour was inappropriate and decided to send Conte to the stands – much to the dismay of the Blues faithful.
It took until the 55th minute for the breakthrough to come and when it did, the relief around Stamford Bridge was palpable. N’Golo Kante received the ball on the edge of the box following a short corner and the Frenchman fired it at goal. The venomous strike deflected off the head of Wilfried Bony and straight into the path of Antonio Rudiger, who notched his first goal in the Premier League for the Blues with a firm reaction header.
Chelsea look to build on lead
The pressure was unrelenting, with Cesc Fabregas’s inch-perfect free-kick finding Morata on 62 minutes but once more Fabianski made a crucial save. Morata engineered a chance for himself moments later with a great piece of solo skill but the Spaniard fired over with the goal at his mercy.
Leroy Fer had Swansea’s first shot in anger in the 65th minute, with the Dutchman firing well over the bar from range before Willian was twice denied by Fabianski who was very unfortunate to be on the losing side after such an impressive performance.
Chelsea stay in third, 11 points behind Manchester City, with a home game against Newcastle next up on Saturday afternoon whilst Swansea, who are languishing in the bottom three, will be looking to get back to winning ways quickly, as they face a tricky-looking trip to Stoke City.