Friday 20 July 2018

Courtois sees red as Mourinho's men slip at first hurdle

Chelsea 2 Swansea City2

Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois

Matt Law at Stamford Bridge

If this season's title race is destined to be the tale of two goalkeepers, then owner Roman Abramovich may well have felt the first pang of remorse during Chelsea's opening-day draw.

The fear for Chelsea this season is that they will be made to regret Abramovich's decision to allow Petr Cech to move to rivals Arsenal.

Thibaut Courtois proved last term and again during this game that he is a superb goalkeeper, but now he must stand on his own two feet without the protection of Cech behind him.

It is certainly questionable whether Cech would have risked the kind of challenge that Courtois produced to earn a red card and effectively end Chelsea hopes of starting with a victory against Swansea City.

When Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho needed a hero from the substitutes' bench, there was no Cech to call on, as he is now the man Arsenal will rely on for miracles between the posts.

Asmir Begovic is undoubtedly a fine deputy, as he displayed with some good saves, but how the Chelsea fans will long for Cech if Courtois suffers a more difficult second season.

Mourinho and his captain John Terry were both furious with the decision to send Courtois off, but there could be no arguing against the fact Swansea at least deserved a draw.

The visitors could have easily added to goals from Andre Ayew and Bafetimbi Gomis, while there was more than an element of bad luck about Federico Fernandez's own goal.

Mourinho started this season with his first-choice team from the previous campaign after striker Diego Costa declared himself fit enough to play.

Swansea manager Garry Monk named an adventurous line-up that included new signing Ayew, who enjoyed an impressive goalscoring debut.

The Ghana international started on the right with Gomis leading the line, and the Frenchman almost gave the visitors an early lead. Gomis rose highest to meet a corner from midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, but his header went narrowly wide.

Referee Michael Oliver gave Chelsea a 23rd-minute free-kick on the left from which Oscar opened his and the club's account for the season.

Monk appeared to be unhappy that Gomis was penalised for a challenge on Cesar Azpilicueta and, as the manager made his point to the fourth official, Oscar caught out the entire visiting defence. Oscar's set-piece was meant for either Gary Cahill or Branislav Ivanovic. Both failed to connect with the ball, but did enough to put off the defenders and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianksi, and it curled in.

Swansea reacted to the blow superbly and were level just six minutes later. Courtois made an incredible save from a Gomis header and Terry and Gary Cahill both threw their bodies in the way to stop Ayew's follow-up. But the forward coolly dragged the ball back to leave the Chelsea duo on the ground before scoring.

Monk's team fully deserved their equaliser, which is why the nature in which Chelsea regained the lead barely 60 seconds later was doubly cruel.

Willian tried to put in a high cross from the left, but the ball deflected off Fernandez and looped past the despairing Fabianski into the net.

Shelvey was the architect of the 52nd-minute moment that led to Swansea equalising and Courtois being sent off. It was Shelvey's brilliant pass that sent Gomis clear of the defence and one-on-one with Courtois, who raced from his line but took out the Swansea man as he did.

Oliver pointed to the spot and sent Courtois off. Mourinho was incensed, while Terry's appeals earned him a yellow card. Replays showed the foul was on the edge of the area and Cahill was tracking back to cover.

Begovic was handed his Chelsea debut in the most difficult of circumstances, replacing Oscar, and his first act was to pick the ball out of the net after Gomis had scored the penalty.

Begovic, though, quickly produced a good save from the superb Jefferson Monteroto.

Gomis thought he had netted what would have been the winner shortly afterwards, after meeting Neil Taylor's cross, but he was rightly flagged offside.

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