Chelsea suffered a major embarrassment at the hands of Bournemouth on Wednesday night. Antonio Conte’s men succumbed 3-0 to a brave and inspired Cherries side, marking the Italian’s worst defeat as Chelsea boss.
That the defeat came at Stamford Bridge makes for even worse reading. The shock result means the next few weeks are a make or break period for the EPL champions in terms of their season.
Uninspired first half
The game started with Chelsea unsurprisingly bossing possession but lacking a cutting edge in the final third. Having lost ‘that man’ Michy Batshuayi in a transfer chain reaction that saw Olivier Giroud sign up a few hours earlier, Conte opted for Eden Hazard as the focal point of the attack with Pedro and new man Ross Barkley in support. It was a standard 3-4-3 with N’Golo Kanté and Tiémoué Bakayoko in the midfield positions.
However, despite an all-around lively showing, Hazard did not really provide a focal point. The Belgian missing a simple header from Marcos Alonso’s pin-point cross was perhaps the best demonstration of this. The Chelsea number 10 was nonetheless the brightest player in a Blues shirt all game, with Barkley and Pedro largely MIA.
Barkley, who was making his first EPL debut for the Blues was particularly poor. One or two clever touches was the only positive to report from an unremarkable display epitomized by misplaced passes and poor positioning in attack. As the Stamford Bridge faithful paid tribute to the recently deceased Chelsea super fan Jack Winter in the 19th minute (he was just 19), Barkley was busy missing a glorious opportunity to play Hazard through on goal. It’s a good thing the cameras were focused on the crowd, who had nobly stood up to give young Winter his ovation.
The only other notable first-half chance for the Blues was captain Gary Cahill glancing his header just over the bar from a corner. The break couldn’t come quickly enough for Conte’s men, who had lost Andreas Christensen to an apparent hamstring injury in the 28th minute. The young Dane was replaced by Antonio Rudiger.
Two new Chelsea faces unveiled at halftime
As Conte was no doubt castigating his charges in the dressing room over their poor first half, there was something exciting for the fans to feast their eyes on.
It was time to present January acquisitions Giroud and Emerson Palmieri, both of whom stepped out onto the turf in their Chelsea gear and waved to the adoring crowd. The pair then settled onto their seats to watch their new side have one of the worst second-half performances ever.
A bizarre 16-minute spell starting around the 51st minute saw the Blues concede thrice to Bournemouth. Two crisp counter attacks ended with Callum Wilson and Junior Stanislas respectively scoring past a stranded Thibaut Courtois.
The third goal came from uncharacteristically poor marking from a corner, leaving defender Nathan Ake to gleefully notch one against his former side. Call it the curse of the ex-player.
The Cherries onslaught sparked the expected increase in intensity from the hosts but sadly there was nothing to gain – not even a consolation goal. Bournemouth held on to not only get a memorable win but also a clean sheet for keeper Asmir Begović, another player discarded by the Blues in recent times.
Up next for Chelsea is a league trip to Watford on Monday night.