A rollercoaster of emotions has left Chelsea fans in torment as they watched their side give up the lead in dramatic fashion, only to let a out sigh of relief after a late equalizer from Marcos Alonso. The match ended 2-2 and Lampard’s side left Vitality Stadium with a stressful point to put themselves four points clear of Manchester United. The Red Devils play Everton on Sunday and can potentially close the gap to one point if they come out victorious. Chelsea could’ve gone up six points clear, but their pitiful defending gave Bournemouth the chance to come back.
The home side put Chelsea on the back foot with their high-intensity press and forced several mistakes from the backline. Chelsea made a couple changes from their last two games, replacing Antonio Rüdiger for Fikayo Tomori and Pedro for Ross Barkley. Willy Caballero continued to start between the sticks while Kepa remained on the bench. Sloppy passing led to easy Bournemouth counter attacks, and individual mistakes once again plagued Chelsea in possession and caused turnover after turnover. Bournemouth were quick to identify the spaces left by our wingbacks, giving our defenders troubles in our own half by attacking the wide areas. Jorginho received a yellow card in the 17th minute after a challenge on Billing (his tenth of the season) and will be suspended for the next two upcoming PL fixtures.
After a nervy start to the game Chelsea started regain control of the match and attack Bournemouth on their flanks, stretching out the defense with our wingbacks interchanging to create overloads. Reece James delivered some good balls in the air and looked dangerous every time he was able to land one in the opposition’s box. Tomori had to cover a lot of ground left by our wingbacks, and often relied on his pace to stay tight on Bournemouth attackers. In the 32nd minute, a delectable ball from Reece found Giroud who managed to put the ball onto the woodwork, and allowed Alonso to follow through to put Chelsea 1-0. After the goal, the Cherries sat back even deeper, allowing Chelsea infinite time on the ball. Eddie Howe’s compact 4-3-3 shape made it difficult for Chelsea to play through the middle, but the Blues did well finding gaps on the wide areas and giving Bournemouth defenders trouble on crosses.
Chelsea looked bright from the second half whistle as the home side continued to sit back in their tight formation. Another opportunity arose for the Blues when Mateo Kovačić relayed a pass to Alonso on the left hand side, crossing to Giroud in the box, but the frenchman could not get a clean shot on target. Out of nowhere, Bournemouth had a corner and Chelsea- who have been shaky on set pieces especially from corners- found themselves 1-1 when Jefferson Lerma leaped over Kovačić with ease. Caballero managed to get a hand on the powerful header but his attempt would be in vain. Momentum was with the home side and Chelsea looked shell-shocked. The home fans were revitalized and called on their team to press high up the field and subject Chelsea to mistakes. Tomori looked uncomfortable under pressure and Bournemouth capitalized in an instant, catching him of out of position and leaving Christensen and Azpilicueta to defend a counter attack. Philip Billing released Stacey down the right flank and rolled a low ball across the face of goal. Callum Wilson failed to score but Joshua King was right behind him to send it to the back of the net. In a blink of an eye, Chelsea were down 2-1 and looked utterly lost. They continued to struggle for the next 10-15 minutes with Chelsea’s poor decisions leading to easy turnovers in their own half. Ross Barkley and Willian came on for Jorginho and Tomori in the 64th minute, reverting to a back four. The Blues adapted and managed to match Bournemouth’s 4-3-3 shape, with Kovacic in the middle as a deep playmaker starting up attacks in front of the back line. In the 72nd minute Lampard made his last change taking off Olivier Giroud for Michy Batshuayi. He almost scored immediately from a pass by Pedro, but was ruled- quite obviously- offside by the linesman.
After another shaky spell, Chelsea regained tempo of the match by pressing Bournemouth in their own half, and forced the Cherries to once again retreat into their compact shape, allowing Chelsea time on the ball. Several Bournemouth defenders made key interceptions and clearances, including a wonderful save from the young English keeper Aaron Ramsdale who denied Chelsea several chances to level the score. Attack after attack eventually led to Alonso equalizing after Pedro’s shot bounced off the keeper. Alonso beat Ryan Fraser to the ball and headed it home past Ramsdale, finally giving Chelsea the goal they were looking for. The Blues continued to mount pressure and another opportunity emerged for Marcos Alonso to complete his hat trick in the 92 minute of stoppage time- Azpilicueta clipped a cross to the back post where Alonso beat his man in the area but scruffed the header wide to miss the chance to win the game. The ref blew the whistle shortly after and the match ended with both teams leaving Vitality stadium with a point.
Atrocious defending from Chelsea has been a huge issue despite creating chance after chance in the offensive phase. They once again displayed their lack of composure under pressure, and conceded two goals against woeful Bournemouth whom sit 17th in the table with 27 points. Alonso’s brace helped Chelsea secure a dramatic point and could have been a hat trick if he managed to score off his last opportunity. Leicester’s defeat to Norwich on Friday night gave Chelsea the opportunity to close the gap between fourth and third to three points. With the draw against Bournemouth, Chelsea only closed the gap to five points and will hope to regain ground when they host Everton at Stamford Bridge next Sunday. They will be given the chance for revenge after losing to Everton back in December at Goodison Park. The race for top four continues to be a grueling battle as several teams are faltering to grasp key points. The Blues continue to yearn for that top four finish, but will have to fix several issues before they can think of Champions League next campaign.