Wednesday 26 June 2019

Heroic Huddersfield make their point to secure survival in topflight

Chelsea 1-1 Huddersfield

Huddersfield players throw their manager David Wagner into the air after they secured their Premier League status with a point against Chelsea. Photo: Getty
Huddersfield players throw their manager David Wagner into the air after they secured their Premier League status with a point against Chelsea. Photo: Getty

Miguel Delaney

A feeling money can't buy, all the more so because of the money Huddersfield shouldn't be able to compete with.

Despite that, despite a late home onslaught at Stamford Bridge, David Wagner's tenaciously defiant team got the 1-1 draw and point they need to definitively stay in the world's wealthiest league, almost certainly denying Chelsea a place in the Champions League.

It is a sensational achievement by the German manager - maybe, according to the economics, one of the Premier League's finest - that only makes Antonio Conte's errors here look worse.

The Italian may well have made his final mistake as Chelsea manager, as he opted for a starting XI without Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud, and it has all but ended their chances of finishing in the top four. It said much that they were brought on immediately after Laurent Delpoitre had scored the fateful first goal, that will now go down in Huddersfield history.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters

Marcos Alonso still scored a freak of an equaliser, but that did not matter in the relegation battle, and may not matter in the chase for the Champions League. Chelsea now need something close to a miracle on Sunday, although that is what Huddersfield and Wagner have offered by staying up.

The difference in consequences led to highly contrasting scenes at the end of the game, but celebration and frustration were not the only emotions on display. There was also gratefulness, relief and rage - not least from Chelsea at referee Lee Mason, as they were aggrieved at a series of decisions - as the clarity of that result for Huddersfield came from the utter chaos of the second half.

From that, goalkeeper Jonas Lossl should be as much a Huddersfield hero as Wagner or Delpoitre. He offered a series of supreme saves at the end of the game, not least from a near-point-blank Andreas Christensen header at the end of the most hectic goalmouth scrambles.

It still wasn't Chelsea's best chance of the game. That came earlier, when they were so lacking the ingenuity of Eden Hazard, especially against the impressive industry of Huddersfield.

There still shouldn't have been much ingenuity required for that 12th-minute chance, though. All that was needed then was a better touch. A corner kick was swung in, Cesar Azpilicueta headed it down, but Antonio Rudiger could only divert it wide from yards out.

Shortly after half-time, Aaron Mooy played a fine lofted ball up to Laurent Delpoitre. He managed to beat the onrushing Caballero to beat the ball and then, out of the ensuing mess in the Chelsea box, offered the assurance of the goal Huddersfield needed.

Conte then ceded. Hazard and Giroud were introduced, and Chelsea's game did come on. They also got back in it, although there wasn't much ingenuity to that. Azpilicueta slid a cross across goal, Zanka attempted to clear and - like James Milner's own goal against Roma - the ball cannoned off Marcos Alonso's face and in.

Independent News Service

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