In their late-season push for the top four, Chelsea took advantage of Liverpool’s goalless draw with Stoke by beating Swansea 1-0 courtesy of an early goal from Cesc Fabregas at the Liberty Stadium.
Blues strike early
Antonio Conte’s side blew the hosts away with a very early opener. Eden Hazard pounced on a poor touch from Andy King inside five minutes and accelerated towards the penalty area with options on both sides. He found Cesc Fabregas to his right, who emphatically finished with his left foot to bring up his 50th Premier League goal, making him the third Spaniard to reach that milestone.
Swansea grew into the game from that point and began to press much higher up the pitch but failed to create any clear-cut chances for the first half an hour. The main talking point was Jon Moss’ debatable management of the game as neither side showed the desire to get the second goal of the match. Swans fans became not only frustrated with the man in the middle but also their players as the first-half drew to a stagnant close.
More of the same
The game was crying out for more entertainment in the second period but the paying fans weren’t treated to an improvement from the first-half. Both teams did eventually slightly increase the tempo but it was far from a classic with Carlos Carvalhal’s men failing to put together more than five passes in their bid to rescue at least a point.
The first 20 minutes would have put even the biggest football fan to sleep with no pace and no emphasis from the hosts despite having plenty of the ball. Chelsea were happy to keep their opponents at arm’s length until the Swans realised that they needed some kind of result.
It began to turn into an end-to-end affair with Swansea advancing into the Blues’ 18-yard box a lot more often with a sense of urgency. However, the visitors looked equally dangerous on the break and Victor Moses should’ve scored after Hazard and Fabregas combined down the right-hand side. The ball rolled to the Nigerian inside the six-yard box and his poked effort squirmed wide of the post, almost in slow motion.
Swansea had a penalty appeal correctly waved away as replays showed that Gary Cahill got a very important touch on the ball before bringing down Nathan Dyer in the box. The game then saw both sides loading crosses into the opposition’s penalty area to no avail.
With little over 90 seconds left on the clock, Tom Carroll came closer than any of his teammates had done. The ball rolled out to him on the edge of the box and his drilled strike was always curling away from the bottom corner, ending up a matter of inches wide. In injury time, an off-the-ball barge from Jordan Ayew on Cahill went unpunished when he could’ve faced a red card and the replays made it look even worse than on first viewing.
Moss blew the final whistle, meaning Chelsea had secured a vital victory on their way to what had seemed like an unlikely push for the top four. A two-point gap between them and Tottenham and a game-in-hand over Champions League semi-finalists Liverpool makes very good reading for fans of last season’s champions with just three games left. Not to forget that next Sunday sees them face the Reds at Stamford Bridge.