Chelsea 3 Swansea 1 – Saturday 25 February 2016
I confess to feeling super excited at the prospect of seeing Super Frank Lampard at the Bridge at half time, as he returned in a belated opportunity to say a proper farewell to us Chelsea supporters. But as far as the match was concerned, three points were the order of the day to maintain our command at the top of the Premier League, although a revitalised Swansea under Chelsea old boys Paul Clement and fan favourite Claude Makelele might have something to say about that.
Just the one change in the starting lineup, Matic making way for Fabregas on his 300th Premier League appearance, otherwise as expected with Courtois in goal and Azpilicueta, Luiz and captain Cahill in front of our big Belgian. Moses and Alonso were on the wings with Kante and Fabregas in midfield, leaving Pedro and Hazard supporting Costa up top. On the bench were Begovic, Zouma, JT, Loftus-Cheek, Matic, Willian and Batshuayi.
From the off we took command of the play as we moved the ball around with ease, and even when Swansea did start to come back into the game, we always looked in control of the situation. It was quick, one touch stuff, the ball not always finding its target, but the way we were controlling the game had me in no doubt that a goal would eventually come.
We were knocking on that door, chances from Fabregas and Pedro before, finally, after 20 minutes, Fabregas broke the deadlock, getting on the end of a few passes between our front three before the man of the moment rolled the ball past the stranded Fabianski in goal. I say finally because with all the chances we were creating the impatient fan inside of me just wanted us to get the rewards we deserved before the game swung the other way, as it so often and inevitably does.
I shouldn’t have worried though; we were dominant, and even that heart in the mouth moment when Luiz gave the ball away leaving an open path to our goal, up popped the diminutive Kante to mop up our curly haired one’s little indiscretion. That’s what we, and our pocket dynamo in particular, are good at; closing down and hassling opposition players in numbers, before quickly getting back into those so-effective attacking positions as soon as possession is regained. I love the way we work for each other and work so well as a unit.
We continued to push for a second goal, and it was Fabregas again who came close, Fabianski having to come to Swansea’s rescue. But the crowd were strangely quiet – in awe of our play? Or so little to get excited about, it was such one way traffic? It did seem like a bit of a training session at times. Swansea weren’t giving their fans much to make a noise about, and we all know the good folk of the valleys love a good bit of communal singing!
With one minute of stoppage time indicated, Swansea were awarded a free kick just as that minute was up. 30 seconds later the ball was in the back of the net, the result of a long ball diverted off the head of Llorente. Our defence were inexplicably switched off following a bit of a frantic call to organise from Luiz and Cahill. With Conte no doubt tearing up his planned half time team talk in favour of a wakeup call for the defence, our hard work in the first half was undone by a momentary lapse of concentration, even if the game had gone beyond the allotted one minute stoppage time. But on that overall first half performance we should get back on track with no problems.
Half time and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Frank Lampard was ushered on to the pitch for his well earned lap of honour to take the applause from each stand, including the gracious Swansea fans. There were touching words from the man himself, thanking us for sharing some of the best moments of his illustrious career. Super Frank, forever a Chelsea legend.
Second half, and with no changes we set about our task and it wasn’t long before Fabianski needed to keep his team in it by stopping a good shot by Hazard, assisted by Fabregas, shortly followed by Fabregas himself rattling the crossbar. We were piling on the pressure, looking to make early amends for that unscripted late equaliser. Frustratingly, Swansea were making no secret of the fact they were content with the point, slowing down the play when their limited possession allowed for it.
But we were having none of it, quick passing and movement, even though the ball did go astray at times. There were mumblings in the crowd as we waited patiently for us to reap our just rewards, crosses flying into the box from all directions but nothing quite finding its target.
The clock was ticking by, and in one scary moment we nearly conceded a penalty when in front of the Swansea contingent, Azpilicueta didn’t (!) juggle with the ball in the box as Sigurdsson attempted to get past him. But instead our man got the ball to his feet and cleared the danger. Ball to hand in my book! Moments later there was a penalty shout of our own when Costa was floored under challenge, but the foul was given the other way. If nothing else, all that excitement woke us up and gave us something to shout about, as we settled back into the game.
And settle down nicely we did. Into the last 20 minutes and we continued to work hard to move the ball around into the danger areas, and when the man with the turbo powered legs found himself with the ball at the edge of the box and with the luxury of a bit of space, he let rip into the far bottom corner and totally fooled Fabianski, who should have done better. But it was a great strike from Pedro and it restored our deserved lead, a mixture of celebration and relief from a re-ignited Stamford Bridge.
So now the Swansea boys decided to play at something a tad faster than a snail’s pace, which suited us just fine as they were forced to commit themselves into more attacking positions. They were there to be picked off.
With 15 minutes left to play, our first change saw the short legged goal hero Pedro replaced by the long rangy legs of Matic. We proceeded to retain possession for long periods of play, with a burst of pace as we approached anywhere near the box. All the Swansea boys could do was watch and admire as our boys danced around those white shirts, waiting to pick the right moment. First Kante had a shot, and a few moments later Hazard did one of his typical twinkle toes runs into the box before laying off a short pass back to Costa, waiting like a coiled spring, for him to athletically wrap his foot around the ball and volley it into the back of the net. There was no coming back for Swansea now, effectively game over.
Our last two changes had Zouma on for Moses and Willian for Hazard as we saw the game out. A good win for us, in the end Swansea didn’t quite live up to their banana skin potential. With Fabregas a stand out, and the terrier-like Kante not far behind, it was actually a great all round team effort that sees us maintain that commanding lead at the top of the league.
DISCLAIMER: All articles written for the Chelsea Supporters Group 2005 (CSG) are those of the author and do not represent the views of the CSG. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited in the article. The CSG do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.