Gutting it out – hard-earned 1-0 wins

Chelsea’s hard-fought victory at Brentford on Saturday was reminiscent of tough away wins of the recent past which have been crucial to the Blues’ Premier League title ambitions.

Thomas Tuchel’s side had to dig deep at the Brentford Community Stadium to preserve the lead given to us by Ben Chilwell just before half-time with Edouard Mendy producing a string of fine saves late on to ensure we won the west London derby.

However, grinding out three points against determined opponents in a tricky away fixture highlights the doggedness of the Blues to get a result in difficult circumstances and has often laid the foundation for success in our league-winning campaigns.

Blackburn Rovers - February 2005

Arjen Robben put Chelsea on course for an eighth straight league win and an 11-point lead in the table when fired us ahead after only five minutes at Ewood Park but when the Dutch winger was taken off injured after a poor challenge soon after, the game devolved into a tempestuous scrap.

Blackburn tried to rile the Blues with high-tempo pressing and feisty challenges which resulted in heated exchanges between both sets of players as the match threatened to boil over. However, Petr Cech superbly stopped a penalty by Rovers’ instigator-in-chief Paul Dickov as we repelled everything the home side could throw at us to claim a crucial 1-0 win.

The sight of several Blues walking off the pitch bare-chested in chilly conditions after throwing their shirts to fans in the away end following the final whistle epitomised the team’s battling spirit as we went on to keep 10 clear sheets in a row and claimed our first league title for 50 years.

Wigan Athletic - August 2005

Chelsea’s visit to Wigan on the opening day of the 2005/06 season may have seemed a mismatch but playing in their first-ever top-flight game, the newly promoted hosts gave the reigning champions a real battle.

The Latics showed no nerves on their Premier League debut, creating a number of opportunities with Cech making a good stop to deny Henri Camara while Damien Francis’s header skimmed the crossbar and Andreas Johansson volleyed wastefully high after a breakaway in stoppage time.

Those misses would be punished as Hernan Crespo curled a brilliant left-footed effort from 25 metres into the top corner with virtually the last kick of the game to begin a club-record run of nine consecutive league wins to start a season as we successfully retained our title.

Queens Park Rangers - April 2015

Chelsea were top of the table and QPR were in the relegation zone when we met at Loftus Road late in the 2014/15 season but for 88 minutes, our west London rivals seemed the more likely to take the three points as Charlie Austin and Matt Philips were denied by Thibaut Courtois.

Indeed, the Blues had not registered a shot on target before a poor clearance kick by Rob Green was picked up by Eden Hazard, who exchanged passes with Oscar on the left before teeing up the ball for Cesc Fabregas who arrived late in the box to smash home the only goal of the game.

Chelsea duly clinched the title with three games to spare while QPR finished at the bottom of the table and have yet to return to the top flight.

Sunderland - December 2016

Fabregas was on the mark again when we travelled to the Stadium of Light midway through the 2016/17 season with the Spaniard steering the ball home from just outside the box just before half-time to give us the advantage against last-placed Sunderland.

The Blues enjoyed two-thirds of possession and outshot the hosts 19-8, but we couldn’t find a second goal and very nearly paid the price when ex-Blue Patrick van Aanholt’s stoppage-time strike forced a fine save from Courtois to preserve the win.

It was the 10th straight league win for the Blues as we won a club record 13 in a row and claimed another title while Sunderland finished at the foot of the table, 16 points adrift of safety.

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