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Chelsea frustrated in after draw at lowly Forest

Chelsea frustrated in after draw at lowly Forest

FOOTBALL: Graham Potter admitted Chelsea’s disappointing 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest underlined the lack of consistency that threatens to shatter their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.


Monday 2 January 2023, 10:28AM

Nottingham Forest’s Sam Surridge (left) vies with Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher during yesterday’s (Jan 1) match. Photo: AFP

Nottingham Forest’s Sam Surridge (left) vies with Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher during yesterday’s (Jan 1) match. Photo: AFP

Raheem Sterling put Chelsea ahead in the first half at the City Ground yesterday (Jan 1) but Ivory Coast defender Serge Aurier levelled after the break and Chelsea were fortunate to escape without an embarrassing defeat after Forest dominated for long spells in the second half.

Chelsea are languishing in eighth place after failing to win for the sixth time in their last seven league games.

The Blues are seven points adrift of fourth placed Manchester United in the race to qualify for the Champions League via a top four finish.

“We need to be more consistent. It would help to get players back, the key ones and then you can build consistency in key places,” Potter said.

“It’s always tough because you have a lot of big teams with lots of top players and coaches.

“We have a long way to go so it would be a mistake to think about what could happen in five months time.”

Just months after replacing the sacked Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea boss Potter is starting to come under fire as the early optimism after his move from Brighton begins to fade.

Chelsea’s 2-0 win against Bournemouth on Boxing Day was supposed to offer hope of a brighter period in 2023.

But while it is surely too early for Potter to be worried about losing the first high-pressure job of his career, the 47-year-old needs an uptick in results in the new year to avoid putting Chelsea chairman Todd Boehly in an awkward position.

“Our performance level wasn’t good enough to take the three points. We didn’t move the ball fast enough,” Potter said.

“Forest played a good game but we’re disappointed with our performance and concerned we didn’t deserve the win. It was overall below par for us.”

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta added to the gloom when he said: “Since the beginning of the season we have lost too many points and we are really far from where we want to be.

“We need to have a very good second half of the season if we want to play in the Champions League next season.”

Forest are third bottom having won just three games all season, but boss Steve Cooper will take heart from the way his team rattled Chelsea in the second half.

The only dark cloud for Forest was the alleged homophobic chanting from home supporters that earned condemnation from LGBTQ groups.

Brennan Johnson threatened an early goal for Forest when he sprinted clear of Marc Cucurella and Thiago Silva, but Kepa Arrizabalaga spared his team-mates’ blushes with a good save.

Forest fightback

If that was a lucky break for Chelsea, Potter’s side enjoyed an even greater stroke of good fortune as they took the lead in the 16th minute.

Christian Pulisic’s cross towards Kai Havertz was deflected by Forest defender Willy Boly’s out-stretched foot, with the ball looping onto the crossbar and bouncing down perfectly for the unmarked Sterling to slam home from close-range.

It was Sterling’s first league goal since August and only the sixth in all competitions for the England forward since his close-season move from Manchester City.

But Chelsea’s first half superiority quickly faded after the interval.

Kepa came to Chelsea’s rescue with a superb save after Johnson accelerated onto Morgan Gibbs-White’s pass and unleashed a stinging shot.

Chelsea were on the ropes and Gibbs-White was inches away from an equaliser when he met Ryan Yates’ pass with a sweetly-timed strike that cannoned off the bar and bounced to safety.

With Chelsea strangely subdued in the second half, Forest’s pressure paid off in the 63rd minute.

Boly out-jumped Pulisic to head a corner towards Aurier, who deftly controlled on his chest before volleying through Kepa’s legs from five yards.

CBRE Phuket

Villa punish Lloris mistake to shock Spurs

In the day’s early kick-off, Aston Villa ruined Tottenham’s bid to climb back into the Premier League’s top four as a costly mistake from Hugo Lloris condemned the north Londoners to a damaging 2-0 defeat.

Playing for the first time since France’s World Cup final defeat against Argentina, Tottenham goalkeeper Lloris weakly spilled Douglas Luiz’s shot early in the second half and Emiliano Buendia pounced to put Villa ahead.

Lloris was left on the bench for Tottenham’s draw against Brentford on Dec 26 as he rested after France’s agonising final loss in Qatar.

The 36-year-old, who conceded three times against Argentina before France lost on penalties, might have wished he had been given longer to recover after his blunder against Villa.

Brazilian midfielder Luiz added Villa’s second goal in the closing stages, leaving Antonio Conte’s side to endure jeers from frustrated fans at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Tottenham had hoped the first Premier League match of 2023 would serve to kick-start their bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top four finish.

Instead, they suffered a New Year’s Day hangover as mid-table Villa punished a lethargic display.

Fifth placed Tottenham have failed to win both of their matches since the World Cup break, a dip in form which has allowed fourth placed Manchester United to climb two points above them.

Adding insult to injury for Tottenham, it was former Arsenal boss Unai Emery who masterminded Villa’s success on his return to north London.

Villa manager Emery, dismissed by Arsenal in 2019, has now won three of his four Premier League matches since replacing the sacked Steven Gerrard in November.

Son Heung-min started the match once again wearing the mask he used during the World Cup to protect his fractured eye socket.

But Tottenham’s South Korean star ripped the mask off for good early in the first half, discarding it angrily after failing to control a pass.

Shell-shocked Spurs

Son’s frustration summed up Tottenham’s spluttering performance.

No player has scored more Premier League goals on New Year’s Day than Harry Kane’s five.

But the Tottenham striker was denied another at the start of the year when he nodded Ivan Perisic’s cross goalwards, only to see Ashley Young clear off the line with an agile diving header.

Although Tottenham dominated possession for long periods, they couldn’t make the breakthrough.

Villa hit them with a sucker punch five minutes after half-time as Lloris’s blunder allowed the visitors to snatch the lead.

Luiz’s long-range shot lacked the power to beat Lloris, but the keeper failed to hold it and Ollie Watkins pounced on the loose ball, flicking it to Buendia, who slotted home from 10 yards.

It was the seventh successive Premier League game in which Tottenham had conceded the first goal.

Perisic couldn’t convert a golden opportunity to equalise when he fired over from Son’s free-kick, while Kane miscued a decent chance from just inside the area.

Reprieved by those misses, Villa delivered the knockout blow in the 73rd minute.

John McGinn’s superb pass split the Tottenham defence and Luiz took a touch before guiding a clinical finish past Lloris.

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