For the next 50 minutes or so, Chelsea’s return to action was going as it should.
Having looked like they needed a World Cup break like any Premier League side, having suffered four successive domestic defeats before that, time seemed to do the Graham Potter side a world of good.
They were blasting Bournemouth helplessly at times and it seemed like it was just a matter of how many goals they were going to score and how much of a statement they were going to make.
A Kai Havertz goal early in the first half gave Chelsea a deserved half-time lead which they doubled soon after.
A majestic Mason Mount goal gave Chelsea a 2-0 lead and they rarely looked let down on an easy evening.
Then Reese James fell injured.
An audible groan swept around Stamford Bridge as he fell to the floor after immediately signaling to the bench that he needed to get off.
Then much of the optimism created by Chelsea’s performance disappeared as he went down the tunnel.
The only negative result of the evening was the injury of Reece James, who went down looking very uncomfortable in the 50th minute
It was England defender James’ first appearance for 11 weeks since suffering a knee injury in October that dashed his hopes of going to the World Cup.
He is now Chelsea’s most influential player, fantastic for a young right-back, and provided a reminder of why with his return which coincided with an improved and exciting display.
So the heartbreaking sight of a battered James combined with the prospect of another setback and what that would mean for him personally and Chelsea was cause for obvious concern.
The full-back signaled he was not feeling well enough to continue shortly after the half-time break and Chelsea’s worst nightmare was soon realized as he walked
Up to that point, he hadn’t missed a shot with the defender rising and falling on the right wing causing all sorts of annoyances to Bournemouth.
By the time James departed shortly after the break, Chelsea were 2-0 up, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount had put the World Cup disappointments behind them by giving the Londoners enough cushion to claim victory.
But the impact of James’ exit was evident not only in the decline of Chelsea’s dominance and threat, but the greater impact shaped by Bournemouth, encouraged by the changing mood around Stamford Bridge and the absence of the Chelsea right-back.
Chelsea need not be reminded of how difficult it is to replace him after having to cope without him for so long last season as well as this.
It was hard not to fear that it was a dilemma that Potter might have to solve again.
Chelsea’s first-half display against Bournemouth was goal-packed with unmistakable strength and clarity in both defense and attack, a stark contrast to the way they finished before the break.
Dominic Solanke was forced to drop deep in midfield as Bournemouth worked to create an openness
James was a big part of that. Two early dashes below the right appeared at the time to be confirmation that he had made a full recovery.
He also took part in a training routine at the ground corner, but could only deflect his shot towards the goal, before sending in a cross that caused a panic, sending Marc Cucurella from the other side to Havertz to head the ball in. Havertz, part of the Germany squad that failed to reach the knockout stages in Qatar, didn’t have to wait any longer to open the scoring.
Kalidou Koulibaly was then next to show Chelsea’s intent, punching a pass to Mount from deep that he was unable to rally, but Christian Pulisic caught him in the end.
His first touch took him past Bournemouth’s Adam Smith who pulled him back but not firmly enough to stop Pulisic’s shot wide. Referee Simon Hooper overruled Chelsea’s appeals for a penalty.
Chelsea were full of intention and seemed to cause trouble for Bournemouth all over the field with their constant pressure
Kalidou Koulibaly and Thiago Silva formed a solid base for Chelsea that Bournemouth struggled to penetrate.
Four minutes later, they were happier when a quick move from behind led them forward and Raheem Sterling smashed the ball through the lane of doubt behind the Bournemouth defence. There was nothing from Havertz as he slipped into the scoreline. Halfway through the half with the score at 2-0, Havertz switched to the forward to mount Mount to finish.
Mount started his campaign for England in the World Cup before turning out to be a late substitute appearance in the knockout stages, so his celebration of Chelsea’s 150th championship start with a goal is no doubt lifted him.
It wasn’t the first major league game in a permanent coaching stint or under Bill Foley that Hollywood star and part-owner Michael B. Jordan was watching, which was what Gary O’Neal wanted.
Chelsea sought third place for most of the game after that with a combination of luck and last-ditch defense making it 2-0
It would have been all too easy for Chelsea to get bored and Thiago Silva capped off a flurry of possession on his back with a wild pass across his own penalty area that briefly gave Bournemouth a view of goal.
That fear woke Chelsea again and the half ended as before, and they were in full swing.
Pulisic’s goal was ruled out by an earlier Havertz foul before James and Sterling’s powerful efforts were saved by Mark Travers.
Denis Zakaria, in his first appearance in the Premier League with Chelsea, threatened twice early in the second half, Havertz fired a shot wide of the goal, and Coulibaly also cleared the goal after the break.
Graham Potter will be pleased with how rested his side have looked despite the absence of several of them over the past six weeks
But it was clear that the momentum had changed with James’ exit.
Bournemouth had more spring in their step after half-time and their improved efforts, possession and greater pressing deserve the reward.
But Kepa Arrizabalaga stopped attempts by Bournemouth players Jadon Anthony and Ryan Christie, ex-Chelsea striker Dominic Solanke with a wide chance in stoppage time, and Chelsea defenders got their fill when needed to maintain their advantage.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Arrizabalaga 7.5. James 8 (Azpilicueta 53, 6.5), Silva 7.5, Koulibaly 8, Cucurella 7; Jorginho 6, Zechariah 7.5 (Gallagher 80); Sterling 7.5 (Chalobah 88), Jebel 7.5, Pulisic 7.5 (Aubameyang 80); 8. Havertz.
Unused subs: Bettinelli, Humphreys, Hall, Chukwuemeka, and Hutchinson.
Scorer: Havertz 16, Mount 23
Director: Graham Potter 8
Bournemouth (4-4-2): Travers 7.5; Smith 6.5, Senisei 7, Kelly 7, Zemora 7; Stacy 6 (Anthony 46, 7), Cook 6.5, Lerma 6.5, Pilling 6.5 (Christie 66, 6); Solanke 6.5, Moore 5 (Dembélé 85).
Unused subs: Plain, Stephens, Marcondes, Rothwell, Lowe, Pearson.
Director: Gary O’Neill 6
Referee: Simon Hooper 6
Attendance: 40, 046
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