If ever a game epitomised a team’s season it was this one. It turned out to be too little too late for Chelsea in their quest for a Champions League spot while Huddersfield earned their Premier League safety. Laurent Depoitre gave the Terriers an unlikely lead before Marcos Alonso inadvertently equalised but the win was out of a much-changed team’s grasp in the end.
Chelsea fans will have been slightly bemused in seeing the names of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud on the bench for such an important game. Chelsea’s front three of Alvaro Morata, Willian and Pedro hasn’t exactly proven to be prolific this season and things didn’t change against Huddersfield. The terriers seemed comfortable in the opening stages of the game and were content with soaking up their hosts’ lacklustre pressure. Antonio Rudiger should’ve put the home side in front put he couldn’t find the target from a couple of yards out at the back post.
Willy Caballero, in for the injured Thibaut Courtois, barely saw the ball, let alone touched it, as the visitors continued to camp on the edge of their own area. Needing a point to stay up, their game plan was evident from the first minute to the last and the game was stifled by their very negative approach. Morata had a couple of half chances, volleying one straight down Jonas Lossl’s throat from Cesc Fabregas’s ball. Willian flashed a shot wide of the far post but that was about as close as it got for the Blues in the first half.
This pattern of play continued after the break but after another period of sustained Chelsea pressure, Huddersfield struck. Aaron Mooy clipped a pass over the top towards his striker, Laurent Depoitre. The backspin on the ball tempted Caballero out of his goal to come and deal with the situation but he was beaten to the ball by the Belgian striker. Depoitre was too strong and forced his way past Caballero, leaving the keeper stricken on the edge of the area, and popped the ball past the stumbling Rudiger to send the away end into delirium.
Olivier Giroud and Eden Hazard were summoned by Antonio Conte to try and salvage something from this disaster. Giroud’s physical presence and Hazard’s technical ability and creative offered something different in attack but it wasn’t the solution. With Huddersfield again pushed back into their own penalty area, their luck ran out when Mathias Jorgensen’s clumsy clearance smacked Marcos Alonso in the face and landed in the back of Lossl’s net to give the Blues hope. Across London, Harry Kane was putting Tottenham ahead, meaning Chelsea had to get another goal in order to keep in touch with their city rivals in the race for the Top Four.
Chelsea knocked at the door continuously for half and hour but the combination of brave defending and inspired goalkeeping kept them out. An almighty scramble in the area lead to Lossl superbly denying his fellow Dane, Andreas Christensen, by tipping his header onto the post. There were times when the Huddersfield defence opened up but none of Hazard, Giroud, Morata and Willian could find a way past Lossl. The game got away from the Blues and, without any sustained attacking pressure, they were forced to settle for a frustrating draw. Tottenham’s win over Newcastle worsened the situation for Chelsea, who need to beat the Magpies on Sunday to have any chance of finishing above Liverpool to claim a Champions League place.