Eden Hazard‘s stoppage-time goal rescued a point for Chelsea, who were held to a 1-1 draw by a stubborn Wolves side. The hosts dominated possession but struggled to break down Wanderers, who mainly threatened on the counter-attack, but the away side took the lead in the second half with a breakaway goal from Raul Jimenez. They continued to frustrate Chelsea until the 92nd minute, but Hazard’s stunning 25-yard strike broke the resistance and hearts of Wolves.
Stubborn Wolves Hold Chelsea
Chelsea enjoyed 76% possession but didn’t manage to create a clear cut chance all afternoon. Much of that is down to how Wolves set up tactically. The front two of Jimenez and Diogo Jota didn’t press particularly high, allowing the Blues plenty of the ball in their own half. However, the backline didn’t defend too deeply. This made for a very compact shape, which limited to Chelsea to very little space in the Wolves half.
When at their best, Mauricio Sarri’s men are capable of playing intricate football, but Wolves made it very hard for them to ever get going.
This isn’t the first time Wolves have picked up a positive result against one of the Premier League’s ‘big six.’ The Black Country outfit have picked up more points (ten) against the top sides than any other team outside of that elite club. Those results include victory in the reverse fixture against Chelsea and a stunning 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur. Wolves may have plenty of flair players, but their ability to dig in against the big boys is admirable. This valiant defensive performance highlights how good they are at frustrating teams.
That being said, Chelsea fans would expect their talented squad to be able to find a way of unlocking tight defences without having to rely on a stoppage-time Hazard strike, and rightly so. The Blues lacked width in their play and ultimately couldn’t stretch the Wolves rearguard.
In particular, Jorginho saw a lot of the ball, but in deep areas. Much has been made of his holding role in Maurizio Sarri’s 4-3-3 system, and this performance only adds fuel to that fire. Perhaps if he was further up the pitch, he may have been able to play that killer pass to unlock the visiting defence.
Hazard Proves His Worth Again
When things aren’t going as planned, it’s always comforting to know you have a world-class talent on your hands who can create something out of nothing. Good old Eden Hazard. The mercurial Belgian found space on the edge of the D before curling a powerful effort into the bottom right hand corner. Wolves gave him a yard of space and he punished them ruthlessly. In tight games having somebody as good as him can be the difference between a loss and a draw, or even a win. It’s vital that Chelsea hold onto him.
With the inevitability of Arsenal and Manchester United taking points off each other in the later kick off, it was pivotal for Chelsea to claim three points in their pursuit of a top four finish. If they’d managed a victory, the Blues would be just one point behind the fourth placed Gunners with a game in hand. Instead, the Londoners trail their city rivals by three, and are one point behind United. Add an out-of-form Spurs into the mix, and you have a fascinating battle for Champions League football.