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Demba Ba saves the day as Chelsea squeak past Swansea City

Michael Steele

I wasn't alive the last time Chelsea beat Swansea away from home. Since the Swans came back up into the top flight, we've had three cracks at them in Wales, and we've failed to win a single one. So with that and the pressure of the title race in mind, a 1-0 away win is a fantastic result.The Blues got three points, and all is well.

That said, the game was ridiculous. Had it not been for Chico Flores managing to get himself sent off a quarter of an hour on, goodness knows what the final score would have been. We'd have certainly been forced to work a lot harder to keep Swansea from seriously threatening Petr Cech's goal, and it's an open question as to whether we'd have been able to throw enough bodies forward to grab the winner.

Fortunately, however, Chico Flores went all Chico Flores, taking down Willian with a cynical foul in the 14th minute before scything down Andre Schurrle a little while later, earning -- after a long, considered pause from Phil Dowd -- an early bath. Before the send off, both sides had threatened an opener, with Mohamed Salah blazing a glorious chance wide and Wilfried Bony testing Cech with a looping header.

After the red, one might have expected Chelsea to either go hard after the opening goal or keep possession in an attempt to exhaust the hosts into submission. Strangely, the Blues did neither until just before the break, seemingly content to let Swansea keep hold of the ball as we buzzed around ineffectively. Salah and Ramires were the closest to breaking the deadlock, but the halftime statistics told the story: 11 shots, zero on target.

Jose Mourinho was understandably unimpressed, and he hauled off both Schurrle and Ramires at the break, throwing on Samuel Eto'o and Oscar in their place. The moves made sense -- with the hosts down to ten, we didn't have to worry about controlling the midfield, and the more strikers on the pitch, the more chance of a sloppy goal coming from somewhere.

The substitutions changed the game, in a mostly perverse sort of way. Granted, Chelsea were playing far better (Oscar is a much more useful link player than Ramires, after all), but the match transitioned from 'wow, this is embarrassingly bad' to 'how in the name of all that is holy did you not score that?!!? AHHHHHH', which was mooted as a possible title for this match report.

The cavalcade of misses and mis-hit half-chances are honestly starting to blur together in my memory*, so we'll fast-forward to Ba's goal. It was predictably scrappy, but there was a moment of genuine quality there too -- Nemanja Matic's perfect pass picked out the Senegalese one on one with Ashley Williams. Ba turned the defender and shot low, the ball squirming under Michel Vorm and into the back of the net to give Chelsea a precious lead.

*NB: I am heavily doped up on cough medicines. Sorry.

Then we reverted to type. Swansea had to attack, giving us space to counter into, but our credentials as a counterattacking side have been vastly overstated this season and we repeatedly wasted our opportunities to go further ahead, with Eto'o, Oscar and Salah particularly profligate.

Those misses very nearly came back to haunt us as injury time approached. Jonjo Shelvey swung in a cross that bent viciously towards the near post, Bony failed to make any contact and Cech was in two minds as to where the ball would end up, eventually pushing the delivery over the crossbar for a rather fortunate corner kick

But thanks to Swansea being down a man, they weren't able to string together anything really worth worrying about, and the threatened storm was more of a light, pleasant drizzle. Four minutes of stoppage time later, and the Blues had all three points. Perhaps they didn't come in quite the way we'd have liked, but they're in the bank and our terrible away form -- DLDWLLL in all comps after the 1-0 victory against Manchester City -- has been at least temporarily arrested.

Four more to go.

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