Eden Hazard’s goal in the 51st minute proved to be the winner as Chelsea leave Vitality Stadium with a 1-0 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday.
It was not a sexy win for the Blues, but three important points were earned as Chelsea continue their chase of the Manchester clubs at the top of the table.
Here are five talking points from the match between Bournemouth and Chelsea.
For the first time since defeating Atlético Madrid in the Champions League in September, Chelsea looked in control for most of the match. The Blues consistently pinned Bournemouth back in their own half, and the Cherries usually had 10 players behind the ball in defence. 652 passes throughout the game allowed Chelsea to play at the tempo they preferred.
Bournemouth increased the pressure after Hazard scored his goal in the 51st minute. They started to press inside the Chelsea half to try to force a mistake out of the Blues, but Chelsea defended well, taking back the ball and slowing the momentum to a halt.
It’s unfortunate that only one goal came out of Chelsea’s dominance in the game. Begovic and the rest of the Bournemouth defence made some key saves to prevent the score line from turning into a blowout. That being said, Chelsea earned the three points and the clean sheet today with their control on and off the ball.
Important Hazard warning
A big reason why Chelsea played well was because of the lone goalscorer of the match. Hazard frequently combined with Pedro and Morata for some one-two passes, and was a constant threat on the pitch.
His goal was the result of a Simon Francis failed clearance and slip, but the winger showed great decisiveness to smash the ball near-post before Asmir Begovic could cover the angle.
The team sorely missed the Belgian superstar when he was still recovering from his fractured ankle. Pedro and Willian were not enough of a creative outlet for Chelsea. The return of Hazard to the lineup now allows Pedro to continue making runs behind the defence or trailing runs into the box. Hazard has opened the game for the rest of his teammates on the pitch, making him the most important player on the team.
Aké and Begovic facing former clubs
Begovic and Nathan Aké welcomed their former teammates to Vitality Stadium as they looked to make like difficult for Chelsea. Both players left the West London club for more playing time with the Cherries.
The two played well against their old employers. Begovic made some key saves, including one on Álvaro Morata, and did his best to keep the score close. He was a dependable backup during his time at Chelsea. Even though a ball did go into his net, he proved to be a dependable starter with Bournemouth.
Aké held his own on the left side of the defence. He made important tackles in the box, and was calm when he had possession of the ball. Hazard’s goal was on the other side of the pitch, and Aké showed what Chelsea could have had if he played more minutes with the Blues.
Drinkwater’s first appearance in the Premier League
Danny Drinkwater made his first appearance for Chelsea in the Premier League at the expense of Pedro in the 77th minute. A calf injury stopped him from making his debut for the Blues until now.
His inclusion in the game signalled a change in formation for Chelsea, switching to a 3-5-2 with himself, Cesc Fàbregas, and Tiémoué Bakayoko in the middle.
The inclusion of Drinkwater creates a realm of possibilities for Antonio Conte’s side. The former Leicester City midfielder is a jack-of-all-trades type of player. Inserting him in the midfield gave extra protection for the Chelsea defence while allowing Fàbregas to continue trying to make passes to the forward outlets.
The thing that most Chelsea fans are looking forward to is the reunion of Drinkwater and N’Golo Kanté once he returns from his injury.
Return of Callum Wilson
Callum Wilson was substituted into the game, and he was met with a standing ovation and a roar of applause and cheers. The 25-year old ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February when he already ruptured the same ligament in his right knee in 2015. Bournemouth fans were excited to see him return to the pitch. He quickly tried to contribute, and almost scored instantly if it weren’t for César Azpilicueta’s last-second block.
Bournemouth fans and players are hungry for goals, only having scored six so far. Jermaine Defoe hasn’t been in form like when he was scoring for Sunderland, and the Cherries will need someone to get the ball into the net for them. Wilson is finding himself in the right places on the pitch. Hopefully he, Defoe, and Joshua King will be able to find the back of the net to pull their club out of the relegation zone.