Match report and free highlights as Chelsea earn first league win in six games with 2-0 victory over Bournemouth; Kai Havertz and Mason Mount scored in first half for the hosts but Reece James was injured on his return after more than two months out; Chelsea up to eighth, Bournemouth 14th
Wednesday 28 December 2022 09:50, UK
Chelsea earned their first Premier League win since October 16 as Kai Havertz and Mason Mount's goals secured a 2-0 home win over Bournemouth, but the hosts' day was soured when Reece James' comeback was ended by injury.
James was named in the starting XI by Graham Potter as he returned from more than two months out with a knee injury and excelled for nearly an hour before going down in front of the head coach and having to be replaced. The right-back later left Stamford Bridge wearing a brace on his right knee.
James' exit seemed to rock Chelsea, who loosened their grip on the game and allowed Bournemouth back into the contest, but the visitors lacked the quality to trouble the Blues, who had lost their last three games without scoring a goal.
But strikes from Havertz (16) and Mount (24) before James' injury had put Chelsea in a commanding position and they were able to see out the win to relieve the pressure on Potter and close the gap on fourth-placed Tottenham to six points, with a game in hand.
Chelsea: Kepa (7), James (8), Koulibaly (7), Silva (6), Cucurella (7), Zakaria (6), Jorginho (7), Mount (8), Pulisic (7), Havertz (8), Sterling (7).
Subs: Azpilicueta (6), Aubameyang (n/a), Gallagher (n/a), Chalobah (n/a).
Bournemouth: Travers (6), Stacey (5), Smith (5), Senesi (6), Kelly (5), Zemura (5), Cook (6), Lerma (6), Billing (6), Solanke (6), Moore (5).
Subs: Anthony (6), Christie (6), Dembele (n/a).
Man of the match: Kai Havertz
Neither Chelsea nor Bournemouth went into their clash at Stamford Bridge with much to shout about, given the Blues had not won in five Premier League games and the Cherries had just one victory from their last seven matches in the competition.
Chelsea still went into the game as strong favourites and had gone a long way to wrapping up the result before the 30-minute mark thanks to Havertz and Mount, who provided the end product to some vastly improved attacking play by the previously profligate Blues.
Havertz's goal came from an excellent right-wing cross by Raheem Sterling that the German forward simply had to slide past Mark Travers, and their second came when Mount bent the ball past the Bournemouth goalkeeper from the edge of the area.
Chelsea's improved performance came after Potter opted to deploy a 4-3-3 formation, having previously preferred a three-man defence, and the extra attacking player appeared to benefit his side.
The Blues' play became a little sloppy towards the end of the first half, with Thiago Silva almost playing his side into trouble with a couple of ill-advised passes across his own area.
James' injury encouraged Bournemouth further and Kepa Arrizabalaga was forced to save from Ryan Christie, while Dominic Solanke headed wide against his former club in stoppage time, but the visitors' lack of cutting edge in the final third ensured Chelsea were able to see out a relatively comfortable win.
Potter admitted he was concerned by James' setback, adding that any team would miss the quality provided by the England right-back.
The head coach - who revealed he was planning to substitute James an hour into the match - said it was "too soon" to assess the extent of the 23-year-old's injury, but added: "Obviously it's the same area so we're concerned.
"We'll have to see how the next 24 to 48 hours go. It was a sort of chopping action and then he felt something. We'll keep our fingers crossed. He's disappointed. We're just hoping it isn't as bad.
"Reece is a world-class player. You see it from the outside but it's not until you work with him that you understand how good he is. He's an incredible player. He would fit into any team in the world so any team would miss him."
James looked like he'd never been away.
Injured since October 11 with a knee issue that required surgery, James made an impressive return to competitive action only for it to end after 53 minutes.
James had been key to Chelsea's 2-0 lead, tormenting Bournemouth down their left side and linking up flawlessly with Sterling. The right-back was even denied a goal by Travers late in the first half.
But soon he was trudging down the tunnel after suffering an issue in "the same area" as the problem he'd only just overcome.
Chelsea stuttered after James went off. Cesar Azpilicueta - James' replacement - was unable to provide the same attacking threat on the right.
Fortunately for Potter's side they already held a commanding lead, but they will have a bigger problem should James be set for another long spell on the sidelines.
Bournemouth head coach Gary O'Neil admitted his side paid the price for failing to match Chelsea's quick start at Stamford Bridge, with the Blues scoring both of their goals within the first 25 minutes.
"We struggled to get to grips with how they started," said O'Neil, who was taking charge of his first Premier League game since being handed the Bournemouth job on a permanent basis. "The start kills us really and it's difficult from that point to wrestle your way back into it.
"The boys gave it a good go. To be 2-0 at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea moving the ball in the way they were, it's very easy for it to get to three, four, five.
"From half-time we looked more likely to score than they did. They had a few counter-attacks where they are dangerous - they have top players. There's reasons for why it didn't look as good as it should have and positives as well from the second half.
"The boys stuck to it and we were competitive for a large part."
Sky Sports' Joe Shread at Stamford Bridge:
A theme throughout Chelsea's wretched run of form before the World Cup break was Potter's penchant for deploying players in unfamiliar - and potentially unsuitable - positions.
The head coach's line-ups became increasingly difficult to predict as he searched for solutions to his side's slump, with Sterling, Christian Pulisic and Conor Gallagher all asked to do stints at wing-back.
But after being handed several weeks to work with his squad as the Premier League paused for the World Cup, Potter opted for a more conventional XI for Chelsea's first game back and was rewarded with a more fluid and cohesive performance from his side.
Sterling and Pulisic looked vastly more comfortable as wingers than they had at wing-back, while Marc Cucurella put in one of his better performances in a Chelsea shirt after being moved to left-back.
Mount also seemed to benefit from being played as a No 8 rather than as part of a front three, and rewarded Potter for his selection by scoring in a match for just the second time this season.
The way in which Chelsea's performance regressed in the final 30 minutes against Bournemouth means Potter won't be able to get too carried away with the display, and a better side would have punished the Blues, but the three points could - and maybe should - convince the head coach to stick with a more recognisable line-up over the next few weeks.
Chelsea's next fixture is away to Nottingham Forest in the Premier League on Sunday, live on Sky Sports - kick-off 4.30pm.
The Blues then travel to Manchester City on Thursday January 5 for another Premier League clash - also live on Sky Sports - with kick-off at 8pm.
Bournemouth's next task is a home Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace on Saturday - kick-off at 3pm. The Cherries then travel to Manchester United for their next league game on Tuesday - kick-off 8pm.