Mason Mount and Kai Havertz struck as Chelsea relaunched their Premier League season with a much-needed 2-0 victory against Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge.
Graham Potter’s side headed into the mid-season World Cup break last month having failed to notch a win in their previous five top-flight games, with three losses on the bounce to boot.
An impressive performance from the hosts saw them break their barren run, though it came at a cost with Reece James forced off injured in his first match since October.
The outcome means Bournemouth have had two losses in two competitive games under head coach Gary O’Neil since he took charge of the Cherries on a permanent basis, having been Scott Parker’s interim successor for the majority of the season.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 27, 2022
Chelsea’s early dominance brought a swift breakthrough, with Havertz prodding home Raheem Sterling’s low delivery at full stretch just 16 minutes in.
Eight minutes later, Germany international Havertz turned provider for England midfielder Mount, who curled a first-time shot through the scrambled Bournemouth defence to double the lead.
The Blues went close to making it 3-0 just before the interval, with goalkeeper Mark Travers parrying a close-range Sterling strike at his top corner.
A third goal proved elusive following the break for Chelsea, and they were dealt a blow when James was forced down the tunnel after lengthy treatment for an apparent leg problem.
His absence threw their rhythm off to a point, with Bournemouth gaining confidence in pursuit of a response, albeit without showing a great cutting edge.
Chelsea youth-team graduate Dominic Solanke headed just wide in stoppage time from Bournemouth’s best chance as the visitors could not find a way back into the contest.
What does it mean? Chelsea break top-flight drought
A 2-0 win away to Aston Villa in October was the last time the Blues took three points in the Premier League, though a pair of Champions League victories in the interim ensured they kept ticking over to a point.
Potter will be relieved to see his side break their poor run of domestic form, with 60.3 per cent of possession enough to smother Bournemouth’s resistance.
James injury leaves Potter sweating
Gareth Southgate’s decision to leave the wing-back at home for the World Cup was a call the player made no secret of his frustration about.
Here, James was able to leave the field under his own steam, but the early exit – ahead of a planned withdrawal – may suggest he is still not back to full fitness after his knee injury. Chelsea and England will hope it is nothing serious.
Cherries sour more than sweet
O’Neil was handed the top job at Bournemouth on a full-time basis during the World Cup break, having helped to steer them away from the bottom three to an extent.
But his side continue to struggle to put their chances away. They have failed to score in eight of 16 Premier League games this season, with no team firing more blanks.
Key Opta facts
– Chelsea have only lost one of their last 11 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge (W6 D4), with that defeat coming against the current leaders Arsenal in November (1-0).
– After going unbeaten in their first six Premier League games under O’Neil (W2 D4), Bournemouth have since lost five of their last six in the competition (W1) and are also winless in their last five away league games (D2 L3).
– This was the first time Chelsea had scored more than once in the first half of a Premier League game since April (v Arsenal). Their two goals against Bournemouth were as many as they had netted in their previous seven first halves in the competition combined (2).
– Bournemouth’s last clean sheet away from home in the Premier League was in December 2019 in this exact fixture (a 1-0 win) – since then, they have gone 18 away games without one, conceding 49 goals (an average of 2.7 per game).
– Sterling has been directly involved in 12 goals in 10 Premier League games against Bournemouth (nine goals, three assists). Only against West Ham does he have more combined goals and assists in the competition (14).
– Chelsea made eight changes to the starting XI from their previous Premier League game – their most in the competition since May 2018 v Newcastle (also eight changes).
Bournemouth will return home to host Crystal Palace on Saturday, in their final game of 2022, while Chelsea will kick off 2023 with a New Year’s Day trip to Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
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