Chelsea battled to a draw against Swansea at Stamford Bridge, despite playing much of the second half with 10 men following Thibaut Courtois' harsh dismissal.
In a game that had it all and in which Chelsea showed impressive character, the momentum swung this way and that with Chelsea in front at the time of Courtois’ sending off– the goalkeeper deemed guilty of bringing down Swansea forward Bafetimbi Gomis inside the area and denying a goalscoring opportunity by referee Michael Oliver, although the Swansea striker's run was taking him away from goal, while Gary Cahill was covering.
Late in the game we suffered a second blow when Diego Costa was fouled by Ashley Williams in a threatening position, with the challenge going unpunished.
The Blues had gone in front through Oscar’s bending free-kick from out wide midway through the first half. Swansea levelled through debutant Andre Ayew before Willian’s deflected cross immediately put us back in charge at half-time.
The red card, awarded after 52 minutes, was crucial. Not only did it allow Gomis to level the scores but it also meant Jose Mourinho had to remove the excellent Oscar from proceedings to make way for substitute goalkeeper Asmir Begovic – who was outstanding on his first Chelsea appearance.
The home side then had to soak up periods of Swansea pressure, with Begovic making a couple of critical saves, while Eden Hazard and Branislav Ivanovic each had opportunities to put us back in front.
It could have been so different had we kept our full complement of players, who must be credited for the character shown in adversity.
The main team news on the day was the fitness of Diego Costa, available despite discomfort in his hamstring in the week leading up to the game. He was named at the head of Chelsea’s attack looking to build on the 20 league goals he scored last season.
New signings Begovic and Radamel Falcao were among the substitutes, while Swansea fielded their high-profile summer capture Ayew in behind striker Gomis.
It was the Chelsea forward who was quickly into the action, his hustling and bustling causing early concern in the Swansea backline, but the game’s first opportunity fell to Gomis.
The visitors won a corner after dispossessing Cesc Fabregas inside his own half, and the in-swinger was met by the Frenchman, whose header dropped just past the far post.
Intricacy from Chelsea, and in particular Hazard, almost had Diego Costa in shortly afterwards but again it was the Swans, and Gomis, who nearly opened the scoring.
Jonjo Shelvey’s pass split John Terry and Cesar Azpilicueta and Gomis initially did well before hesitating and allowing Terry to block and the covering Gary Cahill to clear. Courtois then had to beat away a fierce drive from Ki Sung-Yueng.
A swift Chelsea counter followed, with Diego Costa driving towards goal, stopped in his tracks by a desperate Federico Fernandez, whose lunge brought the forward to the ground inside the box. No penalty said the official, who looked this time to have made the right call.
After looking a threat at one end, Gomis inadvertently contributed to his side falling behind. Tracking back, he fouled Azpilicueta, presenting Oscar with a free-kick from the left.
The Brazilian had just whipped one low ball across goal, and afterwards bore the look of a frustrated man that nobody had got a touch to divert it in.
This time he will have been glad, as from the other side he hit it low, and with Cahill putting off Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, the ball crept inside the far post to give the Blues the lead. It was the perfect lesson in putting the ball in the right areas from a set-piece.
It was an entertaining opening, a fine advert for Premier League football, and two goals in a minute just before the half-hour would have pleased watching neutrals.
First Swansea levelled when Ayew did well to prod home the rebound after Courtois had produced a good save from Gomis’s header, before we instantly went back in front, courtesy of a little luck.
Hazard fed Willian out on the left, and after a quick shimmy he went to cross low into the box, but saw the ball cannon off Fernandez’s foot, up and over Fabianski into the far corner.
It was unfortunate for the visitors, who may have felt they deserved parity on the back of their display so far, which had been based largely around solid organisation and getting the ball forward quickly to Gomis.
Courtois saved well from Gylfi Sigurdsson before the break, while former Chelsea youngster Jack Cork replaced the injured Ki for Swansea.
After the interval there were two early scares for Chelsea. First, Sigurdsson’s free-kick just clipped the top of the wall on its way behind, and then Gomis was crowded out after the ball fell to him inside the box. Fernandez headed over at a corner not long later.
More worrying events were to follow.
Gomis latched on to Shelvey’s long ball forward and Courtois rushed out, bringing the striker down on the edge of the area. Referee Oliver looked at the collision and pointed to the spot, sending the Belgian off despite Gomis’s touch looking to have taken the ball slightly away from goal. This, coupled with the fact Cahill was covering, meant the decision to send the Belgian off was extremely harsh.
Begovic had probably not expected his Chelsea debut to come so soon, but he was introduced in place of Oscar to afford the Blues a goalkeeper. His first task was to pick the ball out of the net after Gomis rolled the ball home, the Bosnian sent the wrong way. There were 36 minutes remaining of what had already been a scintillating affair.
Swansea could have gone ahead when Sigurdssson slipped in Jefferson Montero, but Begovic showed his class by standing up and pushing the shot onto the roof of the net.
Without the impressive Oscar, Chelsea would be expected to sacrifice some attacking threat, but with Hazard, Fabregas and Willian still pulling the strings there would surely be chances.
Ivanovic nodded a Fabregas free-kick over from 10 yards, while at the other end Gomis was adjudged offside as he turned in Neil Taylor’s low centre and Begovic saved low down from sub Routledge.
Inside the final 20 minutes, with the game stretched, Hazard almost put us back in front after darting past Taylor, but he couldn’t beat Fabianski from a narrow angle, slamming his shot into the goalkeeper’s face.
Mourinho made further changes to try and win the game, Kurt Zouma and Falcao introduced for Fabregas and Willian but neither side would find a late breakthrough, and another harsh decision went against us late on when Diego Costa was fouled by Ashley Williams in a dangerous position, with the visiting skipper escaping punishment.
The season starts with a draw, but most certainly a creditable one. It's on to Manchester City next weekend.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Courtois; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta; Matic, Fabregas (Zouma 76); Willian (Falcao 84), Oscar (Begovic 54), Hazard; Diego Costa.
Unused subs: Mikel, Ramires, Moses, Remy.
Goals Oscar 22, Fernandez OG 29
Booked Terry 53
Sent off Courtois 52
Swansea City (4-2-3-1): Fabianski; Naughton, Fernandez, Williams (c), Taylor; Ki (Cork 41), Shelvey; Sigurdsson, Ayew, Montero (Routledge 71); Gomis (Eder 79).
Unused subs: Nordfeldt, Rangel, Bartley, Tabanou.
Goals Ayew 28, Gomis (pen) 54
Booked Shelvey 18, Cork 45+2, Williams 90+3
Referee Michael Oliver