Struggling Swansea welcomed top four hopefuls Chelsea to the Liberty Stadium for a crucial Premier League clash between the two sides. The Swans headed into this game sitting in 17th spot, four points above the drop zone, and needed a positive result here to give themselves some breathing room. The Blues meanwhile were five points behind fourth place Tottenham before this game and needed a win in order to stand a chance of securing Champions League football for next season.
Fabregas hands Chelsea an early lead
With both sides needing a positive result from this game it was little surprise that the atmosphere inside the Liberty was electric at kick-off, or that the tempo of the play was quick and relentless during the opening exchanges. It was Chelsea who capitalised on the fast-paced nature of the game early on and Cesc Fabregas was the main beneficiary, finding an early opener.
Some explosive running through the centre of midfield from Eden Hazard opened up a lot of space and the Belgian looked up to find Fabregas on the edge of the box. The midfielder took one touch before curling a beautiful shot into the corner of the net with his weaker left foot, putting the Blues ahead after just four minutes.
To their credit Swansea responded well to the early setback and pushed furiously for an equaliser, closing the ball down quickly and looking to break through the pace of the Ayew brothers up top. The home side’s attacking impetus opened up space on the counter attack for Chelsea however and Victor Moses saw a decent effort blocked after a quick attack on the break.
Swansea struggle to make a comeback
After an initial spell of pressure from Swansea it was the visitors who settled into the lion’s share of possession and they began to utterly control the game. A headed effort from Olivier Giroud was almost guided into the back of the Swans’ net by Alfie Mawson, but the defender just about managed to lift it over the bar and avoid adding an own goal to his side’s woes. The movement of Giroud was exemplary in the opening half an hour and the former Arsenal striker was at the centre of every Chelsea attack, combining well with Eden Hazard.
Victor Moses was also heavily involved down the right flank as Antonio Conte’s men looked to overload the wide areas, and the Nigerian international delivered a number of teasing crosses that went unconverted by his teammates in the box. The weather conditions did little to help either side’s attempts to produce any flowing football however and players were slipping all over the park. In the end it was Chelsea who headed into the break ahead and Swansea had offered very little going forward in the first half.
Swansea fight for a way back into the game
Having played so poorly in the first half, Carlos Carvalhal’s team talk seemed to have buoyed his players as they came out for the second period looking much brighter. Andre Ayew almost found an immediate equaliser with a close-range header but the Ghanaian couldn’t quite guide the ball under the bar to challenge Thibaut Courtois. The game was incredibly open during the opening exchanges of the second half and there was an urgency to the play of both sides.
For all of Swansea’s newfound confidence and dominance they still struggled to find any real openings or penetration behind the Chelsea back line. There were few runners from midfield to capitalise on the build-up play of Andre Ayew and the Swans often looked lost when in possession in the final third, running out of ideas. Their lifeline came from the fact that Chelsea seemed disinterested in attacking having already grabbed a lead, meaning that the home side remained in the game.
Chelsea close out the narrow win
Jordan Ayew was the next Swansea player to go close with a header after Courtois completely misjudged a corner, but the winger’s effort flew a few inches wide of the post. His brother Andre went even closer just moments later with an effort that closely resembled the Fabregas goal in the first half, but the Swansea forward couldn’t keep his inside the posts. The two quick chances sent warning signs through the Chelsea defence and lifted the Swansea faithful, turning the Liberty into a rocking arena that craved a Swansea comeback.
As the Swans pushed for a goal and threw men forward in the final minutes, Chelsea began to look more of a threat on the break, especially through the fresh legs of Willian and Pedro. That didn’t limit Swansea’s chances however and Tom Carroll dragged a low shot agonisingly wide of the far post as the clock ticked down, squandering another decent chance. That was to be the last opportunity of the game for Carvalhal’s men and it was Chelsea who ran out as winners in South Wales.
For Swansea this was an incredibly worrying result, especially given that many of the teams around them won this weekend. They now find themselves very much in the middle of a relegation battle and performances like this go a long way towards proving why. The Swans created very little despite playing well and registered yet another narrow defeat – something that has been symptomatic of their season.
Chelsea meanwhile needed a win in this game in order to keep pace with Tottenham and they managed that here, despite not looking at their best at all. An early opener allowed the Blues to shut up shop and grind out a result, which means that they do still stand a slight chance of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Swansea: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Roberts (Carroll, 63’), Mawson, Olsson, A. Ayew, King (Dyer, 58’), Ki, Clucas, J. Ayew
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Cahill, Rudiger, Moses, Fabregas (Pedro, 81’), Kante, Emerson, Bakayoko, Hazard (Willian, 81’), Giroud (Morata, 85’)
Goals: Fabregas (0-1, 4’)
Referee: Jonathan Moss
Yellow Cards: A. Ayew (15’), Moses (30’)
Red Cards: None
Swansea: Fabianski 6, Naughton 6, Van der Hoorn 6, Roberts 6 (Carroll n/a), Mawson 6, Olsson 6, A. Ayew 6.5, King 6 (Dyer n/a), Ki 6, Clucas 6, J. Ayew 6.5
Chelsea: Courtois 7, Azpilicueta 7.5, Cahill 7, Rudiger 7, Moses 7.5, Fabregas 7.5 (Pedro n/a), Kante 7, Emerson 7, Bakayoko 6.5, Hazard 7.5 (Willian n/a), Giroud 6.5 (Morata n/a)
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