EPL

Wolves enjoy early Christmas present after condemning Chelsea to another defeat

By Sports Desk December 24, 2023

Chelsea slumped to a third defeat in four Premier League games as second-half goals from Mario Lemina and Matt Doherty earned Wolves a deserved 2-1 victory at Molineux.

Lemina headed in unmarked from Pablo Sarabia’s corner early in the second period, just reward after Gary O’Neil’s side had weathered early pressure and the hosts had spurned a host of chances, most glaringly from Raheem Sterling.

Chelsea laboured to find a way back, but as so often this season failed to find the key pass in the final third, with Cole Palmer noticeably out of sorts.

Then in stoppage time and with the visitors committed forward, Wolves broke and Hugo Bueno crossed for Doherty to take advantage of a poor clearance to slam home a second.

Substitute Christopher Nkunku headed his first Chelsea goal in the dying minutes, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side slipped to a third away league defeat on the spin.

Armando Broja spurned the game’s first opening. After Sterling fed Malo Gusto down the right, his low cross into the box arrived perfectly at the foot of the Albanian, playing as a lone striker with Nicolas Jackson moved to the wing. Looking to shoot first time, Broja kicked at fresh air and the chance was gone.

Sterling was Chelsea’s clearest danger in the first half, running at Wolves down either flank and pitching inviting deliveries. The best of them fell to Jackson who had found space, but as the ball dropped, his touch failed to match his movement and the pass squirmed beneath his foot and away.

After half an hour, it was the turn of his team-mates to vent their anger towards the England international. Sterling did brilliantly to harry and dispossess Joao Gomes, Wolves’ last man, who dithered on the ball deep in his own half. With the defence stranded upfield, Sterling advanced on goal with Jackson and Palmer wide open beside him. Either player would have had a tap-in; instead, Sterling inexplicably went alone and hit a weak shot straight at Jose Sa.

Wolves’ best chances of the half came in the closing seconds, first when Sarabia fired just wide from the edge of the box via a deflection, then Hee Chan Hwang raced clear of Levi Colwill from a ball over the top and lashed over.

They began the second half with similar urgency, Gomes hitting a shot that nicked off Lesley Ugochukwu and grazed the post before defender Toti got forward from the back and drew an outstanding point-blank save from Chelsea’s stand-in goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic.

It was a warning the visitors did not heed and the goal moments later was an almost carbon copy of Toti’s chance. Sarabia’s corner dropped into the heart of the Chelsea penalty area, but despite the obvious danger no one in blue jumped or moved to attack the ball.

That left Lemina with a simple header, climbing above the grounded Ugochukwu to nod towards the back post and in beyond the stranded Petrovic.

Pochettino sent on Nkunku for his Premier League debut, with the ineffectual Broja departing. He nearly offered Chelsea instant reprieve, denied on the goal line by Toti, who gratefully booted clear.

Sterling then went close again, set up by Palmer on the right after Nkunku had picked him out only for an heroic last-ditch block from Craig Dawson diverting the ball over Sa’s crossbar. The balance of the game was tipping in Chelsea’s favour.

Their growing confidence led to their undoing. Three minutes into added time, Bueno broke down the left, Benoit Badiashile’s attempted clearance was atrocious and Doherty crashed it home to take the roof of Molineux.

Nkunku headed in from Sterling’s cross minutes later, but barely any Chelsea fans had stayed to see it.

Related items

  • A look at the Premier League contenders’ run-ins during thrilling race for title A look at the Premier League contenders’ run-ins during thrilling race for title

    Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are locked in a thrilling three-way battle for the Premier League title with just six games to go.

    Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions sit two points clear at the top after their rivals slipped up at the weekend, with Mikel Arteta’s Gunners and Jurgen Klopp’s Reds separated only by goal difference.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the top-flight run-in and what promises to be a dramatic finale.

    Manchester City (First, played 32, points 73, goal difference 44)

    Run-in: Brighton (a), Nottingham Forest (a), Wolves (h), Fulham (a), Tottenham (a), West Ham (h).

    In-form City are seeking to become champions for the fourth year in a row and chasing back-to-back trebles. A perfect weekend for Guardiola’s side, which included a 5-1 thrashing of Luton, put those quests back on track. City are unbeaten since December, dropping just eight points from a possible 51 during that time. Star striker Erling Haaland may not have hit the heights of his debut season but is still the division’s leading scorer, while Kevin De Bruyne’s return to fitness following an injury-hit spell has provided a timely boost. City, who are preparing for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid, are now odds-on favourites for title glory and, according to Guardiola, thriving under the pressure.

    Arsenal (Second, played 32, points 71, goal difference 49)

    Run-in: Wolves (a), Chelsea (h), Tottenham (a), Bournemouth (h), Manchester United (a), Everton (h).

    Arsenal are at risk of experiencing deja vu. The Gunners topped the table for much of last season before falling away in the final weeks. Arteta’s men were unbeaten in 2024 – winning 10 of 11 league fixtures – before Sunday’s damaging 2-0 home defeat to Aston Villa saw them surrender first place. Arsenal face arguably the toughest run-in of the three contenders. After playing their Champions League quarter-final second leg away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday, they still have to face London rivals Chelsea and Tottenham and take on Manchester United at Old Trafford. Manager Arteta is fortunate to have few injury issues and will be desperate to prevent a campaign which promised so much fizzling out.

    Liverpool (Third, played 32, points 71, goal difference 41)

    Run-in: Fulham (a), Everton (a), West Ham (a), Tottenham (h), Aston Villa (a), Wolves (h).

    Reds boss Klopp is reliant on favours from elsewhere to enjoy a fairytale end to his nine-year Anfield reign following a shock home defeat to Crystal Palace. Aside from game week 28, Liverpool led the division for more than three months between Boxing Day and early April before losing momentum. The 19-time English champions, who this week travel to Italy seeking to overturn a 3-0 aggregate deficit against Atalanta in the last eight of the Europa League, have three successive away matches coming up, including a Merseyside derby at Goodison Park. Klopp knows his side can afford few, if any, further wobbles if he is to add to the top-flight title won in 2020 before moving on in the summer.

  • Not too Xabi: The numbers behind Bayer Leverkusen’s invincible run under Alonso Not too Xabi: The numbers behind Bayer Leverkusen’s invincible run under Alonso

    Bayer Leverkusen wrapped up their first ever Bundesliga title on Sunday night as Xabi Alonso’s managerial reputation continues to grow.

    Leverkusen are unbeaten in all competitions this season and here, the PA news agency looks at their record.

    Invincibles

    Alonso’s side lead Bayern Munich by 16 points with five games remaining after 25 wins and four draws in the Bundesliga this season.

    Wins or draws against all of Borussia Dortmund, Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bochum and Augsburg would see them complete the first ever undefeated Bundesliga season – Bayern lost just one game in both the 1986-87 and 2012-13 seasons, a record in the competition.

    Leverkusen are also in the DFB-Pokal final, against second-tier Kaiserslautern, and hold a 2-0 lead from the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final against West Ham.

    They have not lost in those competitions either, with an overall season record of 38 wins and five draws, 123 goals scored and only 31 conceded.

    Sunday’s title-clinching 5-0 win over Werder Bremen was the fifth time this season they have scored five goals – Darmstadt, third-tier Sandhausen and European opponents Qarabag and Molde the other victims – in addition to an 8-0 cup rout of fourth-tier Teutonia Ottensen.

    Florian Wirtz’s hat-trick against Bremen moved him alongside Victor Boniface as the club’s leading scorer, both with 11 league goals and 17 in all competitions. Leverkusen have kept 21 clean sheets at the other end.

    Arsenal’s 2003-04 team earned the title of “The Invincibles” after winning the Premier League without losing a match – Alonso’s men need to get through a further nine or 10 games to complete an “Unbesiegbar” season across all competitions.

    Xabi’s X-factor

    Taking over a team second-bottom of the table in October of last season, Alonso worked wonders to lead Leverkusen to a sixth-placed finish and a Europa League semi-final before breaking new ground this season.

    Across his 80 games in charge to date, Alonso has 55 wins – a remarkable 68.8 per cent rate – with 15 draws and 10 defeats. His side have scored 187 goals, averaging 2.34 per match, and conceding 77 or just under a goal per game.

    Alonso was linked with Tottenham last summer and with the upcoming vacancies at Liverpool and deposed Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich – both clubs he represented as a player – at the end of this season.

    He has pledged his continued loyalty to Leverkusen, who will be hoping that remains the case as his stock rises.

  • Premier League title race state of play as Manchester City gain upper hand Premier League title race state of play as Manchester City gain upper hand

    Manchester City took the initiative in the Premier League title race by hammering Luton on Saturday before rivals Liverpool and Arsenal both lost on Sunday.

    Here, the PA news agency looks at the state of play with six games remaining.

    Momentum shift

    While City took only a two-point lead in what remains a close race, the momentum swing felt significant as they jumped from third to first.

    The manner of their 5-1 win also sounded a warning, while Arsenal were outplayed in the second half as they lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool missed a hatful of chances as Crystal Palace held on for a 1-0 upset.

    Commitments in other competitions mean City do not play their next league game until April 25 at Brighton, by which point their rivals will both have played twice more knowing they need wins to put the pressure back on Pep Guardiola’s side.

    Arsenal have the first chance to get back on track, away at Wolves late on Saturday evening, with Liverpool travelling to Fulham the following day.

    Both are back in action three days on with eye-catching fixtures, Arsenal hosting Chelsea a week on Tuesday before the Wednesday brings a Merseyside derby at Everton’s Goodison Park, with City playing on the Thursday.

    City’s trip to Tottenham has been put back to May 14, the Tuesday before the season ends on Sunday, May 19, meaning from this weekend on they will have a game in hand.

    Course and distance winners

    Another reason for City’s psychological edge is their title-winning pedigree under Guardiola.

    They have finished first in five of the last six seasons, and second to Liverpool in the other, and have been noted for their strong finishes in that time.

    Of the final 18 points available to them in each of the last six seasons, City have won 16, 18, 15, 12, 16 and 13 – an average of 15 which, if repeated this term, would require either Liverpool or Arsenal to win all six of their remaining games.

    Arsenal, under Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta, put themselves in prime position last season but faltered by taking only 12 points from their final nine games, and nine in the last six including successive defeats to Brighton and Nottingham Forest, as they finished five points behind City.

    Liverpool have previous achievements of their own to fall back on after winning the 2019-20 title, the only interruption to City’s run of dominance.

    They had done their work earlier that season, though they still won four and drew one of their last six to ease home with an 18-point winning margin.

    The previous season they won their last nine games in succession to push City all the way, finishing a point behind with their total of 97 the highest ever for a team who did not win the title.

    They have taken 16, 16 and 14 points from their last six games in the three seasons since their title win but know they will need something similar, allied to an unfamiliar City slip-up, if they are to provide a glorious finale to Jurgen Klopp’s managerial reign.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.