This could be a home win in regulation. But the victory over Bournemouth – and a comfortable one at the time – was welcome, as it was essential for Graham Potter.
First-half goals from Kai Havertz and first-half comeback Mason Mount made what could have been an awkward evening, one of largely relief and satisfaction. The stats gurus pounded their keyboards in anticipation, ready to pounce on any Chelsea incident, which, given the recent history of this match, was a real concern.
But really Chelsea should have added a little more shine. The real goal of the game came when Reece James suffered what appeared to be a recurring knee injury that ruled him out for Qatar.
This was not the result of Potter walking away. But there can be real excitement in Raheem Sterling’s offer. This was the player they bought. And while Chelsea will certainly seek at least temporary reinforcements in January, Havertz will regain confidence from both his shooting and his performance.
Bournemouth excelled under the leadership of Gary O’Neill. To call them brave is a tad harsh; These are not nights that will turn their season around. But they barely landed a punch until the closing stages.
Given the length of the World Cup break – it’s been 45 days since Chelsea’s last competitive game – it’s misleading to use this starting line-up as a frame of reference.
But Graham Potter felt he could name only three of the 11 who started in their defeat at Newcastle, showing the influence of the World Cup on his selection. Reece James, who was ruled out of service in England due to injury, returned for the first time since mid-October, while Dennis Zakaria, on loan from Juventus, made his league debut.
It was easy for Bournemouth compared to Keefer Moore and Chris Mepham in Qatar. The latter’s blow, lost to illness, was softened by the return of Lloyd Kelly from a four-month absence.
But while the Premier League was sleeping, the cherries were active. Gary O’Neill’s interim managerial success earned him an 18-month contract, while he now eventually reports to Billy Foley after the US consortium completed its long-awaited takeover.
O’Neal was never meant to be more than a shortstop, but he was quietly impressive in his first role. Much like he was a player, really.
If Chelsea are weakened by absent faces – Hakim Ziyech and Mateo Kovacic among them – it won’t show. They confidently settled into their work, gorgeous triangles of passing all around, with James elating at every touch.
An early penalty appeal was overturned when Christian Pulisic burst into the area and Adam Smith grabbed his shirt, albeit lightly. Pulisic stayed up to deflect his shot wide, and was joined at his feet by the entire Chesley bench. The video assistant referee said no. One of those “where else would it stink” moments, and since Smith wasn’t trying to play the ball, it could have serious consequences.
Fortunately, it quickly became a moot point. Mason Mount slid in Raheem Sterling, who made Kai Havertz’s perfect one-inch cross slide past Mark Travers. The potter’s hands shot out of his pockets to beat excitedly in the air. satisfaction.
Eight minutes later, Chelsea doubled their lead. This time Havertz turned to the provider, recycling a loose ball to mount it to the Mount. On his 150th Chelsea start, he was the low and graceful 20-yard curler caught in the corner.
The entirety of Stamford Bridge thought Chelsea had secured a third goal but Potter’s celebration of Pulisic’s finish quickly turned into a protest when referee Simon Hooper punished the American.
The fruit of an unfortunate opening half for Bournemouth was a Philip Billing free-kick that Kepa Arrizabalaga handled comfortably despite the slippery surface. Full marks for effort but they could hardly get a touch up.
James’ combination with Raheem Sterling, who embraced the right sideline, was just too much for the two of them. Many in attendance must have uttered the words “if only” when both Travers were tested in first-half injury time.
Chelsea’s level of performance hardly decreased after the resumption of the match, but unfortunately their hearts gave way.
With eyes elsewhere, James descended with his face covered in his hands. Silence descended as James lay still. Everyone present knew what she meant. “Rhys James, he’s one of us,” echoed around the ground. The full back at least headed into the tunnel without help, but his expression was desolate.
Even without his right-hand partner, Sterling continued to impress. Straightforward, poised and electric, his reckless trajectory deserved better than the finish delivered by Havertz. Then, perhaps inspired by Sterling, Mount flew forward, making a clever save from Travers.
Bournemouth has caused some tensions of late largely over Chelsea’s neglect. Arrizabalaga blocked substitute Ryan Christie’s shot, and Potter kicked the floor several times in frustration.
job done. to the next.
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