It was always going to be tough today given the opposition we were facing and the amount of key players we had missing, but we gave it our all and were simply undone by a few moments of quality.
There’s a lingering frustration given it was one of those games where we could’ve easily got something had Rafa been allowed to sign a quality attacker or two – something that’s continuing to cost us given 4 of our 5 relegation rivals picked up points today. That said, it’s hard to have too many complaints. We were organised and gave 110%; two qualities that bode well in a relegation battle.
It was a first-half of two halves. Just when it looked like we’d ruined Rafa’s game plan by conceding within the first 10 minutes, we finally came back into the game, stringing a few more passes together and getting more balls and bodies up and around Rondon, with a brilliant header from Ciaran Clark giving us a well deserved equaliser before the break.
It was great to see us show fighting spirit and actually come into the game from 1-0 down given we’ve failed to gain a single the last 11 times we’ve conceded first in the league, but our inability to kick on after that cost us (and don’t even get me started on that short corner in the final few seconds of the game!)
It didn’t quite happen for us in the second half, with us tiring and struggling to really get going, but it’s hard to fault the lads in this one – especially when we were missing several first-team regulars.
Rondon was an absolute monster up top and held off Chelsea defenders all night to hold up the ball, Longstaff put in a brilliant shift and looked comfortable on the ball on his first top flight start and Lejeune looked a class act at the back.
Atsu, Yedlin and Perez gave us an outlet and got into good positions in attack, but they flattered to deceive more often than not, showing exactly why Rafa wants the likes of Almiron to give us some flare and quality in and around Rondon.
Here’s how the table now looks after today’s results:
Burnley won the relegation six-pointer over Fulham and Cardiff and Huddersfield drew 0-0 in another huge game at the bottom, but it was Southampton’s 2-1 win at Leicester that result we could’ve done without today.
Here’s our next six games – starting with a FA Cup outing to Blackburn we could really do without before next weekend’s crucial game with Cardiff.
- Blackburn (A) *FA Cup
- Cardiff (H)
- Man City (H)
- Tottenham (A)
- Wolves (A)
- Huddersfield (H)
Ultimately, it came down to one side having that bit more quality than us – even if we outran them. Pedro and Willian took both of their chances emphatically, where as the likes of Perez sliced his big opportunity well wide.
With Ashley in attendance, hopefully he can see that all we may need to stay up is a bit more attacking flare in the final third (Almiron?), although I wouldn’t bank on that.
There’s positives to take from this, but we MUST start picking up points sooner rather than later – with our next league game against Cardiff undoubtedly our biggest game of the season to date.