Blues snatch late leveller as Rodgers shows Abramovich value of flair
Published 01/02/2012 | 05:00
It is only a 90-minute snapshot of a 38-game Premier League season but, on this evidence, Roman Abramovich selected the wrong Jose Mourinho protege.
Yes, Chelsea might have snatched a fortuitous deflected equaliser but the dominant theme of another hugely impressive evening at the Liberty Stadium was Swansea's expansive passing play. Brendan Rodgers, Chelsea's former reserve team manager, continues to extract considerably more flair from Swansea than Andre Villas-Boas is coaxing from the supposed superstars of Stamford Bridge.
Yet as much as it was a tale of two managers on the touchline, this was also a story of two strikers. Scott Sinclair, who made just one league start in three frustrating years at Stamford Bridge, scored for Swansea while a 1,000th minute has now elapsed since Fernando Torres registered his last Chelsea goal.
The first surprise was in the team-sheet, with Gary Cahill being made to wait for his debut even in the absence of John Terry due to a knee injury. Villas-Boas instead opted to rearrange his defence, partnering Branislav Ivanovic and David Luiz in the centre while Jose Bosingwa started at right-back.
Swansea's exceptional pressing, however, left Chelsea struggling to establish any rhythm and they took a deserved lead in the 39th minute. Juan Mata had needlessly conceded a foul deep inside his own half and, from another set-piece, Chelsea's obvious defensive weaknesses were exposed.
Gylfi Sigurdsson's free-kick landed on the edge of the six-yard box, with Bosingwa unable to clear even the penalty area with his defensive header.
Sinclair had drifted into space and brilliantly punished the mistake, hooking his finish over Petr Cech and into the corner of the goal. His previous association with Chelsea meant that the celebration was muted.
Even without Terry, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard Chelsea emerged for the second half with more purpose. Yet while Mata, Bosingwa, Daniel Sturridge and Michael Essien all provided moments of quality, there was often a gaping hole in the centre of Chelsea's attack.
It appeared that Chelsea misery had been compounded in the 85th minute when Ashley Cole was dismissed for a second bookable offence, but Bosingwa was to rescue a point for Chelsea in the final minute with a low drive that deflected off Neil Taylor. (© Daily Telegraph, London)