17 September 2023

Big-spending Chelsea rarely threaten in drab goalless draw at Bournemouth

17 September 2023

Chelsea’s indifferent start to the Premier League season continued as they were held to a drab goalless draw by Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side were again short on creative threat as the hosts dealt comfortably with what their opponents could muster in attack, only once looking genuinely troubled when Raheem Sterling’s second-half free-kick cracked the underside of the crossbar.

For Chelsea it was a familiar case of failing to find the critical pass, as possession and overall control of the match counted for little.

It leaves the team assembled for more than £1billion by co-owner Todd Boehly languishing in 14th place with just one win in their first five league games.

Andoni Iraola saw the winless streak with which his Bournemouth tenure has started stretch to five matches but also witnessed moments of genuine attacking intent from his team, most notably when Dango Ouattara was denied brilliantly in the first half by Chelsea goalkeeper Robert Sanchez.

Sterling had the first sight of goal in the 10th minute when he darted into the box to latch onto Conor Gallagher’s chipped pass but his shot was horribly miscued and rolled away to safety.

Nicolas Jackson made better use of his first opportunity, striking the outside of the post from Mykhailo Mudryk’s through-ball, but on the whole the opening exchanges passed with little incident.

It took a superb sprawling save from Sanchez to keep out Ouattara, the goalkeeper diving at the striker’s feet after Bournemouth had caught Chelsea out with a quick free-kick.

Sterling looked in the mood to continue the rich vein of form with which he has started the season. In the 22nd minute, Malo Gusto linked up well with Gallagher down the right and sent over a low cross that Sterling was first to react to, but his shot was deflected to safety.

Neto got a strong right hand down to beat away Gallagher’s effort from 18 yards after he had been set up by Mudryk. For Chelsea, the first half had traced a familiar pattern; plenty of possession and probing balls into the channels, but little to suggest they had fathomed how to break Bournemouth down.

Sterling nearly gave them the perfect start to the second period, his free-kick from 20 yards crashing off the bar and down onto the goal line. Levi Colwill tapped home the rebound but was rightly called offside.

The Blues had conceded five goals in their first four league games, and there were again signs of defensive frailties in Dorset.

Axel Disasi failed to get height or distance on his clearance from the edge of the box, heading the ball to the feet of Ryan Christie who curled a well-struck effort into the palms of Sanchez.

Chelsea’s breakthrough looked to have arrived after 65 minutes when Sterling slid a ball in behind for Jackson, whose low cross was almost turned home by the stretching Colwill – with Neto clawing the ball to safety.

But the visitors were looking increasingly desperate in their approach. Gusto and Sterling each epitomised the dearth of creative ideas that has dashed Pochettino’s early ambitions, lashing speculative shots high and wide from distance when there were options on.

At the other end, Bournemouth were increasingly a threat. First Philip Billing saw a free-kick deflected narrowly wide, before Dominic Solanke’s low drive was well saved by Sanchez.

Cole Palmer was summoned from the bench to help find Chelsea’s rhythm, but the summer signing from Manchester City had little more success than the player he replaced, Mudryk.

Ben Chilwell also came on and made one good burst forward and crossed for Jackson, but the striker’s header was easy for Neto.

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