Antonio Rudiger got his first Premier League goal for Chelsea and it proved to be the match winner against a stubborn Swansea side. Paul Clement’s team were quite happy to camp on the edge of their own penalty area and only mustered two efforts during the whole 90 minutes.
From the outset, it was a question of when and not if the Blues could break a very defensive Swansea team down. Despite a goalless first half, Chelsea had plenty of chances to go in front and, on another day, they would’ve been two or three goals up at the break. Alvaro Morata tested Lukas Fabianski with a smart volley after adjusting to meet Cesc Fabregas’s cross. That was after Willian’s free kick had avoided everyone and whistled past the far post.
The biggest incident of the first 45 minutes came just before half time when Alfie Mawson turned Willian’s cross behind for a corner. The referee Neil Swarbrick thought Pedro had got the final touch and pointed for a goal kick. Antonio Conte was fuming on the touch line and took his anger out on the fourth official, the one-and-only Lee Mason. Mason complained to Swarbrick and Conte was subsequently sent to the stands. The Italian, irate with the decision, shouted some more at Swarbrick but the referee wouldn’t change his mind and Conte took his seat a few rows behind the Chelsea bench. The manager didn’t come out for the second half and reportedly watched the game from his office.
The second half also started without Renato Sanches. The Bayern Munich youngster, who had been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge in the summer, had an awful first half and was hauled off at half time by Paul Clement as Leroy Fer took his place. The Blues finally broke the deadlock ten minutes after the second half had started as N’Golo Kante’s deflected shot was headed in by Antonio Rudiger at the back post. His quick reactions allowed him to direct a powerful header down and past Fabianski and bag his first Premier League goal. Morata again forced the Polish keeper into a save but the score remained 1-0.
A huge positive from the night was the return of Victor Moses. The Nigerian had been out with a hamstring injury since September and came off the bench with 15 minutes to go. Eden Hazard, who had been rested by Conte, came on in the last 10 minutes along with Danny Drinkwater but neither could double Chelsea’s lead. Another absentee from the starting line-up was Cesar Azpilicueta – Chelsea’s captain missed his first Premier League minute, let alone game, since December 2015. That was when Jose Mourinho was still in charge and the Blues sat in the bottom half of the table and lost 1-0 at home to Bournemouth.
Despite the close score line, the result never seemed in doubt and an uneventful game came to a close with Chelsea deservedly taking all three points.