Chelsea have drawn 2-2 with Swansea City in the first Premiership match of the season in an eventful but ultimately disappointing game for the reigning champions.
The Champions started the game brightly, passing the ball quickly and sharply in the opposition half, pushing Swansea back into their own half. The visitors didn’t allow Chelsea to dictate the play for long, and came close in the 7th minute when a Gomis headed a corner just past Thibaus Courtois’ far past.
Gomis had another, and easier chance a few minutes later when he was almost put through on goal by Jonjo Shelvy. He would have given his side the lead he not dithered and allowed John Terry to get back and smother the shot. The Chelsea defence had more work a few seconds later as Courtois had to punch away a powerful shot from Ki from which the Blues counter attacked but couldn’t create a clear chance.
The home side settled better after that, and the next few minutes were played in the Swansea third of the pitch. A series of set-pieces came to nothing until a 22nd minute free-kick from Oscar, won by Cesar Azpilicueta on the left, flew in past everyone and into the corner of the net to give Chelsea their first goal of the new season.
Having the lead invigorated Chelsea further, and the Stamford Bridge crowd began to see the best of the creative axis that won them the league last season. Hazad, Fabregas and Costa put fine passing moves together and threatened to double the lead. Diego Costa especially looked sharp after the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Community Shield and friendly match with Fiorentina on Wednesday. But Chelsea’s advantage didn’t even last until the half hour mark as Swansea equalised with a soft goal. A cross from the left side found Gomis whose string header Courtois could only push out to Swansea’s Andre Ayew who netted from close range at the second attempt.
Whatever joy Swansea felt at drawing level was even more shot lived than the deficit they obliterated as Chelsea instantly attacked and regained the lead from an own goal from Federico Fernandez- the defender helpless as Willian’s cross deflected off him and into the same corner that Oscar’s free-kick had landed in minutes earlier.
While Swansea appeared a threat, the bulk of their attempts came from outside the box which Courtois was able to keep out with relative ease.
The second half began it did so with Swansea showing great intent, and not at all downhearted by the unfortunate goal they conceded to be behind. Gylfi Sigurdsson took a free-kick from the just outside the box, and the resulting corner found Gomis once again unable to make the most of having the ball in the area. It was a poor start from the Champions, and another Shelvy corner hit the near post with Chelsea struggling to adapt to Swansea’s pace going forwards. Montero in particular was almost unplayable on the left wing.
It didn’t take long for Chelsea to pay for their poor start- a long ball over the heads of everyone found Gomis again clear on goal. Courtois reacted far too slowly and brought the forward down leaving Referee Oliver no choice but to send him off and award a penalty. Asmir Begovic’s first act as a Chelsea player was to send the ball back to a the halfway line for the restart as Gomis easily scored the spot kick. With ten players and the score level Chelsea suddenly found the urgency they should have had after the break, but Swansea did not sit back and hope for a draw. They continued going forward, and a shot from the Montero was pushed away by Begovic mercifully away from the nearby Gomis. The same player cut back in from the left again on 60 minutes and forced another stop from the former Stoke ‘keeper.
Branislav Ivanovic missed a great chance on 66 minutes when he sent a head from a Fabregas free-kick over the bar, and it did appear that if Chelsea were to regain the lead it would be from a set-piece, the build up in open play being too slow, especially with 10 players. Swansea had a goal correctly disallowed for offside moments later when Gomis turned in a Shelvy ball across the goal. Both sides were willing to take risks to win the game. Chelsea counter-attacked in numbers when they could and Hazard almost earned the lead back in the 75th minute after receiving the ball from Willian, but his shot was saved at the near post.
Chelsea pushed on as the game entered its final minutes, the substitution of Fabregas for Zouma providing greater presence in midfield and Hazard found the space that had been denied him earlier on in the game, but there was still little in the way of penetration from the Champions. The attacks were far too slow and the final ball was often lost because of dithering. Chelsea couldn’t find a way through Swansea again and if anything were fortunate to escape with a draw.
It is clear already that it will be difficult for Chelsea to retain their title. One hopes that this result, and match, is not a pattern that the rest of the season will follow.
Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas; Willian, Oscar, Hazard; Diego Costa
Subs: Begovic, Zouma, Ramires, Mikel, Moses, Remy, Falcao
Fabianski, Naughton, Fernandez, Williams (C), Taylor, Ki Sung-Yueng, Shelvey, Sigurdsson, Ayew, Montero, Gomis
Subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Bartley, Tabanou, Cork, Routledge, Eder
Ref: Michael Oliver