Toni Rudiger’s first Premier League goal was sufficient to overcome a stubborn Swansea side and extended our unbeaten run in the competition to six games, five of which have been wins.
Against these opponents from Wales it is now 15 league matches without defeat and this latest victory was no more than the Blues deserved. We had 21 shots over the 90 minutes, 10 of which were on target with several of those kept out by good saves from Lukasz Fabianski. He was however beaten by the German’s header early in the second half.
Chelsea reduced Swansea to just two off-target attempts but the lack of a second goal did raise the tension in the closing minutes as the visitors attacked. Happily a fourth clean sheet in our past five outings was preserved, although for once Antonio Conte was not able to congratulate the players as they left the pitch. He had been sent to the stands for complaining about a decision shortly before half-time.
Having made changes to his team selection in the preceding games in this busy period, Conte did so again tonight with Willian and Pedro starting either side of Alvaro Morata, and Cesc Fabregas and Rudiger also coming in. That meant a rest for Eden Hazard and an even rarer one for Cesar Azpilicueta who for the first time under Conte, did not start a league game.
Before play began, there was a tribute to our former, much-loved Academy coach Dermot Drummy who so sadly passed away at the start of the week. A minute’s applause rang round Stamford Bridge, scene of one of his triumphs when he helped begin the recent run of FA Youth Cup success. The players wore black armbands.
When the whistle blew, Morata and Pedro almost conjured an opening within seconds and Morata also had an early penalty shout turned down. When Alfie Mawson was whistled up for a foul on our leading scorer 10 minutes in, it was in the right position for one of Willian’s famous curlers towards the far post. The Brazilian's strike was one of his top ones too, but just out of reach of the Chelsea heads in the area and just wide of the target.
The Blues’ early attacks consisted of plenty of combinations on the left, and Davide Zappacosta racing with the ball a long distance on the right. One of his runs led to the ball dropping from high into the penalty area, controlled skilfully by Pedro who drew a save.
Morata was inches away from getting his forehead to an excellent Zappacosta cross and our centre-forward had a header saved from a corner, itself a result of Fabianski pushing wide a Pedro curler. Midway through the first half, Chelsea were turning up the heat on the Swans on a chilly night.
On 27 minutes, Morata produced a moment of real class. Fabregas looped in a pass and with exquisite balance and touch, the Spaniard side-footed a volley with power but he was denied the opening goal by a good save.
Every single player apart from Thibaut Courtois was frequently inside the Swansea half, and the crosses were coming over with regularity. One of the best from Willian after the visitors had gifted the ball was so nearly onto Morata’s head just yards out. Any type of touch would surely be a goal.
Willian played the ball in again moments later and it was diverted just wide by Mawson. The officials however gave a goal-kick. Conte protested to the fourth official and his actions resulted in banishment from the technical area for the second half. Our manager apologised to the ref and the fourth official after the game.
Despite missing the familiar figure of the boss instructing and urging them on from the sideline, it took the team 10 minutes of the second period to break through.
The first chance after the interval was for Pedro, after Willian had crossed from the less-familiar left, but his team-mate skied the shot. The wait was not much longer. A short corner came the way of N’Golo Kante who hit a ferocious shot that would have seriously tested Fabianski but hit a Swansea head. The break went Chelsea’s way. Rudiger in the right place and in front of goal headed home. We were on our way to three points.
Fabianski prevented the Welshmen going further behind when a Fabregas free-kick was headed on-target by Morata.
Willian was causing Swansea big problems and he drew a save from the keeper with a shot from out wide before our opponents had a brief spell of pressure on our goal, with Courtois brought into action for one of the only times in the game. Victor Moses was introduced for his first football following six weeks out, with Hazard and Danny Drinkwater brought on soon after.
There were some scrambles in front of the Swansea goal before the end but the ball would not go in, and there was a collective sigh of relief in the closing minutes when a dangerous cross from substitute Wayne Routledge evaded his colleagues and passed the Chelsea goal without harm.
Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill (c); Zappacosta (Moses 74), Kante, Fabregas, Alonso; Willian (Drinkwater 80), Morata, Pedro (Hazard 80).
Unused subs Caballero, Azpilicueta, Ampadu, Bakayoko.
Scorer Rudiger 55
Booked Morata 90+2
Swansea (4-3-3): Fabianski; Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Mawson, Olsson; Ki, Mesa (McBurnie 65), Carroll; Bony (c), Sanches (Fer h-t), Ayew (Routledge 84).
Unused subs Nordfeldt, Rangel, Dyer, Clucas.
Referee Neil Swarbrick.