Loftus-Cheek scores but Blues are undone by quick-fire Jimenez and Jota goalsDecember 6, 2018
The Blues boss rested up four of his key players with one eye on Saturday’s crucial home game against Manchester City.
But now he he finds himself ten points behind the Premier League leaders and with their faint title hopes in tatters.
And instead of maintaining the pressure on the top two, Chelsea are suddenly sweating over their place in the top four after failing to deal with this Molineux monstering.
They looked to have the game well under control when they went ahead with Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s deflected 19th minute goal.
But they were unable to withstand a full-blooded Wolves fightback after the break and succumbed to two goals in the space of four minutes from Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota.
It ended a miserable run of one point from six games for Nuno Espirito Santo’s team.
And it made a nonsense of suggestions that the Premier League newcomers had been found out at the highest level.
Wondering where his next win is coming from is a totally new experience for Nuno.
Having stuck doggedly with more or less the same team all season, he decided that a shake-up was needed and made four changes to the team beaten at Cardiff last Friday.
That meant a first Premier League start for 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White, the prince of the Black Country who is already being tipped for big things by the Molineux regulars.
Chelsea boss Sarri also gave his team a spin through the rotator, but there was no rest for the irresistible Eden Hazard, who was once again in the thick of the action right from the start.
The Belgian playmaker was a constant menace for Wolves’ bewildered defenders, testing keeper Rui Patricio with an early low shot before drawing a couple of fouls in dangerous positions.
And it was Hazard’s ball inside which gave Loftus-Cheek the time and space to try his luck from distance for Chelsea’s breakthrough goal.
Patricio appeared to have the 19th minute effort covered until Conor Coady stuck his head in to block the shot but only succeeded in diverting it past his own keeper.
Loftus-Cheek has been a frustrated spectator for most of the season since returning from Russia in the summer.
For while England boss Gareth Southgate has no doubts about the young forward’s ability, Sarri is not quite so sure.
But the sceptical Italian is gradually being won over by the young powerhouse who has been dreaming of making it big in a Chelsea shirt ever since he joined the club as an eight-year-old schoolboy.
Loftus-Cheek is still mulling over the possibility of asking to go out on loan in January to get more game time.
He certainly won’t be short of offers after his successful spell at Crystal Palace last season, with a host of clubs currently queuing up for his services.
Yet those plans have been put on hold after he was finally handed his first Premier League start for Chelsea since April 2016.
Sarri is still not convinced about RLC’s defensive contribution, but he can have no doubts about the player’s attacking efforts after his sixth goal in his last seven appearances.
Last night’s effort certainly wouldn’t have found the net without Coady’s intervention, but Loftus-Cheek won’t be worrying about that.
The Wolves skipper wasn’t having much luck with his bonce, suffering a nasty clash of heads with Cesc Fabregas as Chelsea threatened to cut loose again.
Willian’s dipping free-kick required a fingertip save from Patricio after another foul on Hazard and
Willy Boly’s crucial interception prevented Alvaro Morata reaching Loftus-Cheek’s through ball.
But it wasn’t all one-way traffic and Jimenez was unfortunate that Antonio Rudiger’s touch was just enough to stop him from making full contact with Ruben Vinagre’s 35th minute cross.
Jimenez did manage to get on the end of another Vinagre centre shortly before half-time, but this time Cesc Fabregas was just able to reach his knock-down ahead of the incoming Gibbs-White.
Chelsea, though, always looked capable of stepping up through the gears and finished the first-half the stronger.
Hazard’s beautiful chip over the top sent Willian bearing down on goal but just as he was about to pull the trigger he was stopped dead in his tracks by Ryan Bennett’s thunderous tackle.
They should have put the game to bed two minutes after the break when Loftus-Cheek rolled the ball right across the face of goal to leave Morata with a one-yard tap-in.
But Boly’s desperate challenge from behind was enough to put Morata off and Wolves took full advantage of that let-off.
They hauled their way back into the game when Gibbs-White played in Jimenez and the Mexican striker held off Andreas Christensen to fire a 59th minute shot under keeper Kepa.
It was a goal which threatened to lift the roof off the Sir Jack Hayward Stand and four minutes later the Wolves fans were celebrating again.
Matt Doherty’s beautiful low cross was crying out for a finishing touch and Jota obliged with an unerring close-range finish.
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