EPL Match Review: Chelsea vs Swansea
Chelsea Earned All Important Three Points Against Swansea At Stamford Bridge
Antonio Conte was sent to the stands for the first time in his Chelsea managerial career as Antonio Rudiger’s goal secured a 1-0 win over Swansea City on Wednesday night.
Conte was dismissed from the Stamford Bridge touchline by referee Neil Swarbrick for contesting a goal-kick, which he felt should have been a corner to the hosts in the 43rd minute.
Despite the Italian’s absence, Chelsea went on to score the only goal of the game when Rudiger headed in a deflected cross in the 55th minute to secure victory, which keeps the champions within three points of second-placed Manchester United and 11 behind leaders Manchester City.
Proceedings at Stamford Bridge began with a minute’s applause from both sets of players – wearing black armbands – for former Chelsea academy coach Dermot Drummy, who died earlier this week aged 56.
A tribute to Drummy was included last-minute into the matchday programme for the visit of Swansea after news broke on Monday night that Drummy – who helped bring through many Chelsea players such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Lewis Baker – had passed away.
Attention then turned to matters on the pitch and, indeed, Conte’s switch to a 3-4-3 formation to include Willian in his starting line-up.
The Brazilian enjoyed a superb past week after scoring two goals and winning two penalties in the 4-0 Champions League win away to Qarabag before coming on as a substitute and netting the equaliser against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday.
His form, plus the upcoming congested fixture list, resulted in Conte reverting from a 3-5-2 set-up to a 3-4-3 formation and having Willian play on the right – with his inclusion nearly resulting in the opener for the hosts.
Not long after referee Swarbrick had rejected Chelsea’s penalty claims for a handball on Mike van Der Hoorn and the defender’s contact with Alvaro Morata, Willian whipped a 10th-minute free kick into the box, which Marcos Alonso headed just wide to hand Swansea, who had dominated the early stages of the game, a scare.
The Blues had another appeal for a spot-kick turned down when Alonso went down in the box under pressure from Renato Sanches, but it was third time unlucky for the hosts, who had created the best chances at goal.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, Lukas Fabianski pulled out several superb saves to keep the scoreline at 0-0 going into the break – although the first half didn’t end without drama for the hosts.
After Chelsea failed to get a corner kick with two minutes of the first period left, Conte rushed over to fourth official Lee Mason and proceeded to air his frustrations.
Mason quickly called over referee Swarbrick, who subsequently sent Conte to the stands although the Italian initially took a seat behind the Chelsea dugout before being told to go to the stand directly above the press box.
With Conte off, it was left to one of Chelsea’s assistant first-team coaches, Angelo Alessio, to steer the hosts to an opener which they did in the 55th minute from a corner kick.
Willian sent the ball from the set piece to N’Golo Kante, whose subsequent shot took a deflection off Wilfried Bony and was met by an unmarked Rudiger at the far post, who headed it past Fabianski for his first Premier League goal.
Chelsea could have doubled their advantage soon afterwards, but Fabianski denied Morata from close range, tipping his header over the bar.
Alessio reacted by bringing on Victor Moses – who was making his first appearance since suffering a grade three hamstring injury on October 14 – Eden Hazard and Danny Drinkwater.
And despite Swansea’s best efforts to find the equaliser, a Conte-less Chelsea held on to move back to within three points of second-placed United.