Big-money bench to the rescue as Chelsea earn pivotal win to help reignite faltering campaign

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·3-min read
Big-money bench to the rescue as Chelsea earn pivotal win to help reignite faltering campaign
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In Chelsea’s time of need Thomas Tuchel turned to the best part of £200million-worth of talent to get him out of a hole – and it might just save their season.

It helps to have such riches in reserve. Such as £97.5million club record signing Romelu Lukaku – and £58million Christian Pulisic. Then there was £33million Hakim Ziyech for good measure.

Chelsea were drifting towards a fourth straight home game without a win – with their campaign in danger of going into serious drift. In that sense what value Pulisic’s 90th-minute strike to secure a 1-0 win?

Not that it should have come to that, with Lukaku winning a penalty moments earlier that Jorginho squandered with lamentably bad effort from 12 yards that was saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

In truth, this game did not deserve a goal. Chelsea barely deserved the win on a day when they looked alarmingly short of energy and inspiration.

The danger for Tuchel is that this mindset is allowed to set in for the remainder of the season that still has so much at stake.

After successive home defeats to Brentford, Real Madrid and Arsenal, an insipid draw with West Ham had the potential to see Chelsea dragged back into the race for fourth, rather than cement their place in third.

The hope for Tuchel is that this win will serve to reignite a campaign that has begun to falter – especially with the FA Cup Final versus Liverpool on the horizon.

Chelsea simply cannot afford to dial it in for the rest of the season and then expect to turn it back on in time for such crucial clash at Wembley.

Which is why Pulisic’s swept home goal could prove to be so vital – arriving late in the box to meet Marcos Alonso’s cutback.

It was a bitter blow for West Ham, who had managed to frustrate Chelsea for so long despite an injury crisis in defence and David Moyes’ decision to leave Declan Rice, Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen on the bench.

In front of a congested box, Chelsea managed to create next to nothing, with bodies getting in the way of what little they put together from an attacking point of view.

Tuchel had seen enough by the 76th minute, when he made his triple substitution that so impacted the game.

 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

Edouard Mendy’s long punt was knocked on for the run of Lukaku and with the Belgian closing in on goal, Craig Dawson could only drag him back in a bid to prevent the danger.

Referee Michael Oliver pointed to the spot and then, after reviewing the pitch-side monitor, sent off the West Ham defender.

It felt like an enormous let off for Chelsea as Jorginho stepped up. But after his customary hop and skip run up, his effort was both soft and telegraphed, allowing Fabianski to drop on the ball.

Now it was West Ham who were relieved – celebrating furiously. But those scenes were soon cut short when Pulisic pounced.

“”It feels like a giant step,” said Tuchel. “We have some games in hand. It was necessary and I am glad. The atmosphere is like this in the dressing room.

“We also deserved a bit of luck after the last results and how they were created here in our stadium.

“A big game now coming in Manchester (against United). A good feeling with a late win. It lifts everybody’s mood.”

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