Swansea 0 Chelsea 1
Chelsea kept themselves in the hunt for the Premier League Title with a narrow 1-0 win at struggling Swansea. Demba Ba scored his second winning goal of the week to set the Blues up for a potential title showdown with Liverpool in two weeks time.
Ba was brought into the starting line-up in place of Samuel Eto’o while Nemanja Matic, Mohamed Salah and Ramires (suspended) and who were all ineligible for Tuesday evening’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain, returned to the side as well.
After a minute’s silence had been observed for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough disaster, the game got underway and Swansea put their visitors under some early pressure.
John Terry was forced to clear the ball with Bony lurking before Dyer got a cross into a dangerous position and Hernandez then had a shot saved by Petr Cech.
But Chelsea should really have been in front on five minutes when Branislav Ivanovic played a one-two with Andre Schurrle before slipping the ball to Salah inside the box. The Egyptian set himself but somehow sent the ball wide of the post when it was easier to find the bottom corner.
Swansea were boosted by the miss and at the other end Bony forced a save from Cech with a header before they were dealt a hammer blow.
Flores was booked for impeding Willian on the halfway line and then two minutes later left a leg hanging and took out Schurrle. Referee Dowd took his time before deciding it merited a second booking and showed Flores the red card to reduce Swansea to 10 men with most of the game still to play.
But Chelsea weren’t able to capitalise on their numerical advantage and chances on goal were few and far between. Willian was the most likely to create something and he fired wide before finding Ba with a decent ball which the Senegalese striker tried to back-heel into the net. He couldn’t get enough on it and it didn’t trouble the ‘keeper.
But there was nothing really happening for the Blues and after a dull first half they went in level at the break knowing a much improved performance was necessary if they were to have any hope of the Title.
José Mourinho wasted no time in changing things and introduced Oscar and Samuel Eto’o at half-time in place of Ramires and Schurrle, who had picked up a booking just before the interval.
The substitutions made a big difference to Chelsea, who looked more comfortable and composed on the ball and less likely to give Swansea a scoring opportunity.
With ten minutes gone Ba threatened when Ivanovic sent a ball across and his header went just wide of the mark. Then three minutes later another great chance to take the lead went begging. Williams cleared a cross straight to Eto’o inside the box and all he had to do was hit the target but his shot went flying wide of the mark. It was a big miss and although he tried to atone for it with a shot on the turn moments later it was no match for Vorm.
It was looking like it might be one of those days for Mourinho’s team and it took Terry to deflect a Routledge shot wide when it appeared to be about to cause Cech some serious problems.
Chelsea’s attempts to break the Swans down just wasn’t producing the end result but then, after 68 minutes, direct football broke them down.
A long throw from Cesar Azpilicueta deep inside his own half found Matic and the midfielder pinged a brilliant ball straight to Ba, who brought the ball down brilliantly and muscled his way past Williams before blasting it past Vorm.
The ‘keeper should perhaps have done better but it was a great effort from Ba nonetheless and his side were now in front against 10 men, although there was still plenty of time to go.
Ba had another chance 11 minutes later but fired over the bar and Mourinho decided it was time to shore things up, replacing him with John Mikel Obi.
There was another chance to secure the win when Ba sent Oscar away but he was crowded out by some good Swansea defending before Swansea had one final chance to get something from the game.
Shelvey swung a cross into the Chelsea area and it evaded everyone before bouncing awkwardly in front of Cech, who had to react quickly to palm it away.
From then on the Blues were stronger in defence and Swansea couldn’t break them down. The full time whistle brought a hard-earned three points back to Stamford Bridge in spite of a lacklustre performance ahead of a series of huge games in the next month.
Chelsea; Cech, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Salah, Matic, Ramires (Oscar), Willian, Schurrle (Mikel), Ba
Unused subs; Schwarzer, Cole, Luiz, Torres
Chelsea scorer; Ba 68
Booked; Eto’o, Mikel
Referee; P Dowd