The beginning of a new era at Stamford Bridge, it had to be around a fresh start Ramel Lukaku, but ended in an exciting and largely inevitable sting in the tail of the Wolves. The result is actually more the same in Chelsea, whose future out of the field is now clearer but the fight against it continued thanks to a dramatic header by Conar Cody in the 97th minute.
Now Arsenal can close the gap with Chelsea and take third place in one point, winning tomorrow over Leeds. Thomas Tuchel urged his team to raise their level to stop this decline in form and though kind Todd Bely from his new perspective will be a steady image of what turned out to be a busy day, the Chelsea coach now needs a win over Leeds on Wednesday to avoid what turns into a nervous and anxious end to their Premier League season.
Chelsea were set for a pretty comfortable win after Lukaku’s double – his first Premier League goal since December – but if the twists and turns of the takeover saga were anything, there will always be a crazy ending.
Francisco Trinkao changed the game with his late hair curler to play one after Chelsea was caught in a counterattack. He then saw the shot deviate from the bar, and Raul Jimenez approached with a single volley, while there was also a penalty shootout after Hwang Hee-chan collapsed into the penalty area.
Perhaps the failure of Chelsea’s once-primary defense car is evidenced by the fact that they allowed themselves to be caught so late – and why the mood changed so suddenly after Trincao’s sublime finish. It felt like the EQ was approaching when the Wolves came forward and Cody hit his head on the back post to unleash chaos on the away side.
Boe looked on – it was quite an introduction – but by that time Lukaku was also watching. He was taken to applause, and Stamford Bridge sang his name. Somehow it still won’t be his day.
An hour later, when Lukaku finished well past Jose Sa for the first time and doubled Chelsea’s advantage, it felt like it would. “It has to happen,” Tuchel said vaguely of what Lukaku needs to do to turn his career around at Chelsea.
Winning and scoring a penalty in the second half for Chelsea’s breakthrough was a good place to start. This brought visible relief from White and a blow to the chest from Lukaku.
What a difference a goal has, they say, but it definitely was. This lifted the atmosphere, but rather masked the fact that so far, “Chelsea” again failed to reach the levels required by Tuchel after last week’s awkward defeat of “Everton”.
Tuchel led Chelsea for the first time in a 0-0 draw against the Wolves in January last year – in a match that did not promise much, but was the beginning of a great coup at the end of this season. Chelsea have lost a lot of that spark in recent weeks. It was supposed to be a difference, but it ends with another match of disappointment and missed chances.
They thought it happened after Ruben Loftus-Chick transferred the ball to the back post, only to see the VAR turn it off. The fight looked just as embarrassed by the long review, but the result of the second VAR intervention pleased him more after referee Peter Banks overturned his initial decision to award a penalty for having Ramen Sais tripped over Lukaku in the penalty area.
The penalty was simple, tucked in the bottom left corner to send Ca in the wrong direction, but the goal was perseverance after he chased Sais and made a mistake.
Lukaku has not allowed himself to give it up and has not yet given up his career at Chelsea. Christian Pulisic also did not give up the fight in his first two-month start in the league when he made another turn before punching Lukaku.
The finish was flawless, and although it was only his seventh Premier League goal of the season, at the time it looked like perhaps his most important.
Even before his double, Lukaku was brighter both in his participation in the overall game and in attempts to score – but two sharp shots on goal in the first half spoke of his insecurity. Werner also missed chances, and was just lucky that when he defeated Sa, his goal was rejected for Sais ’push.
The Wolves, who were left without their manager Bruno Lage because of a positive test on Covid, had a clear game plan. They twice threatened at the counter in the first half, warning that Chelsea did not listen. The guests sat deep and were compact, but they were often careless in possession, and the more ruthless side of Chelsea would have let them go.
But Trinkao changed the game, and when Cody surprised Lage, who was watching from home in his living room, Chelsea again lacked the confidence they wanted, just as it looked as if it had arrived.