Chelsea escaped Cardiff City Stadium with a narrow and nervy 2-1 win over Cardiff, thanks to two late goals to complete the comeback.
Cardiff City matched Chelsea well in the first half and were unlucky not to test Kepa Arrizabalaga more. The Blues didn’t come much close either, except Pedro cutting in and curling a fizzy shot just a bit above the goal. Marcos Alonso was lucky to not concede a penalty for tucking at the shirt of a Cardiff player in the box.
The second half though, started on a gloomy note for Maurizio Sarri, with Victor Camarasa slotting the ball inside the goal with Kepa Arrizabalaga rooted to the spot. Chelsea failed to kickstart even after the conceded goal, with Cardiff still on the accelerator. Sarri finally brought in Eden Hazard for Pedro and things began to change for the Blues.
Chelsea were still very dodgy in their attacking buildup and end-finish, with Gonzalo Higuain dragging shots wide or seeing his shots getting blocked by a determined Cardiff defence. All hell broke loose though, in the 84th minute as Cesar Azpilicueta scored from what looked like a clear offside position in the box.
Chelsea grew into the game after the equalizer and a brilliantly lofted Willian cross found the head of Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the box, who converted to send Cardiff fans into a state of gloom and anger toward the level of officiating. The Blues though, come away with three points despite not really playing well enough to deserve it. We now take a closer look at how the individuals performed.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – 7
A solid outing from Kepa, who looked assured in and around his area. Came forward to collect balls and nullify long-ball threats and did save shots that came his way. Couldn’t do anything as the Camarasa shot was sweetly struck. A good outing, despite not receiving the best of support from the back four.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 6.5
Given an extra point for the goal he scored, even though it was a blatant offside call. The defender was really suspect at the back and not as valuable going forward either. Sarri needs to sort out the defensive issues because the entire back four is looking a fair shot away from the solid structure they resembled a few months ago.
David Luiz – 7
The best of an average lot at the back for Chelsea, David Luiz was perhaps the reason Cardiff didn’t trouble Kepa more. 6 successful aerial challenges, 6 clearances and 2 successful tackles meant Cardiff were prevented having clear opportunities at the goal and knock the ball down to a teammate from the long balls played in by Cardiff defenders.
Antonio Rudiger – 6
Given the license to venture forward and assist in the buildup, Antonio Rudiger’s long balls rarely found their targets on Sunday and his long-range shooting was really suspect. The German did his job at the back but was not entirely convincing facing Cardiff attackers either.
Marcos Alonso – 6.5
Alonso always gets into good positions in attack but on Sunday, his end-product was massively missing, something that has become something of a norm in his recent displays. Did receive an assist for his head-on from a corner inside the Cardiff box for the equalizer. Did well to win the header in between two Cardiff players. Apart from it though, it was an ordinary performance.
Jorginho – 6
One of the poorest performances from Jorginho, who was rarely involved in the game. Received a rightful yellow card for trying to foul during a Cardiff counter. The Italian seems to have fallen off his former influence or it might just be that Sarri was trying a different route, with Jorginho starting to get marked out of games.
Still, a pass success rate of 79% is not what you expect from the Italian playmaker.
Mateo Kovacic – 6.5
A better performance than usual. But, the problem still persists. Kovacic is brilliant in dribbling into the final third from the midfield. But, there is hardly any end-product. The same was the case on Sunday but he was a bit helpful in driving into the Cardiff structure.
Ross Barkley – 7
The pick of the midfielders. Barkley carried a portion of his international form to the club level and was always trying things. Might have locked in a regular place for himself in the midfield.
Pedro – 6
Pedro was good early on in the first half, with his shot the closest either side came. But, his influence fizzled out over time and he was rightly substituted for Eden Hazard in the 53rd minute. A performance that puts his starting position in doubt.
Gonzalo Higuain – 5
The worst performer of the day perhaps, for Chelsea. The trademark Gonzalo Higuain was nowhere to be seen. The Argentine dragged shots wide, misplaced passes and often did not run into the space he usually does. An uncanny and under-confident display that would do Sarri no good.
Willian – 7.5
The best Chelsea player on Sunday, Willian terrorized the Cardiff defence and more, with his varying runs and surprise inside cuts to open up space for Marcos Alonso to drive into. The Brazilian could have easily locked his place in attack, likely over Pedro, who disappointed massively.
Eden Hazard – 6.5
Was decent after coming on, earning free-kicks in dangerous situations. But, did nothing of note, despite widely being expected to deliver an adequate response after being benched by Maurizio Sarri. Signs that Hazard could be on his way out.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 7
The man who scored the winning goal. This could turn out to be a turning point for Loftus-Cheek at Chelsea, who has so far found opportunities hard to come by under Maurizio Sarri.
Olivier Giroud – 6
Came on for Higuain and was instantly a nuisance for Cardiff as Chelsea tried going Route Two, putting the ball in the box. Still not convincing enough.