Chelsea 1-1 Huddersfield: David Wagner's men secure Premier League status with precious point
By Lewis Jones at Stamford Bridge
Last Updated: 10/05/18 8:51am
Huddersfield secured their Premier League status for next season and severely dented Chelsea’s top-four hopes by battling to a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
This latest performance of grit and outstanding defensive organisation, plus a famous goal by Laurent Depoitre (50), all-but relegates Swansea City, who need a 10-goal swing on the final day to turn the tables on Southampton.
For Chelsea, Marcos Alonso's equaliser (60) wasn't enough to deny the tenacious Terriers, who survived a late onslaught from the Blues, with goalkeeper Jonas Lossl in fine form - including an incredible one-handed save to deny Andreas Christensen.
Get Chelsea TV half price
Chelsea fans, get closer to the club you love with half price Chelsea TV. Just £3.50 a month for 12 months.
The result leaves Antonio Conte's men needing Brighton to beat Liverpool at Anfield on the final day for any hope of finishing in the top four.
But this night was all about Huddersfield and the masterful David Wagner, who has kept his side up against the odds and only spent a remarkable eight days in the relegation zone all season despite their minuscule budget.
Chelsea: Caballero (4), Azpilicueta (7), Christensen (6), Rudiger (6), Fabregas (6), Kante (6), Zappacosta (6), Alonso (6), Willian (6), Pedro (6), Morata (5).
Subs: Hazard (6), Giroud (6)
Huddersfield: Lossl (8), Smith (7), Kongolo (8), Zanka (8), Schindler (8), Lowe (7), Hogg (8), Mooy (8), Billing (7), Van La Parra (7), Depoitre (8).
Subs: Pritchard (7), Hadergjonaj (7), Malone (7).
Man of the match: Jonas Lossl
Fresh from their defensive masterclass against champions Manchester City, Huddersfield started where they left off at the Etihad Stadium. Chelsea bossed the ball but created little in open play.
Set-pieces seemed their best route and Anthony Rudiger somehow turned a Cesar Azpilicueta flick-on wide from two yards out on 13 minutes.
Antonio Conte decided to rest Eden Hazard in one of six changes from the win over Liverpool as Willian, Pedro, Andreas Christensen, Davide Zappacosta, Willy Caballero and Alvaro Morata were handed starts. There were three changes made by David Wagner with Phillip Billing, Rajiv Van La Parra and Laurent Depoitre replacing Alex Pritchard, Steven Mounie and Florent Hadergjonaj.
With Jonathan Hogg and Aaron Mooy spearheading Huddersfield's bite and organisation in midfield, the hosts were becoming frustrated. Alvaro Morata skipped through on goal 40 minutes but failed to find a decisive finish after rounding Lossl.
After the break, Huddersfield sensationally took the lead with their first opening of the game. Cries for a foul on Willian were ignored by referee Lee Mason and Mooy charged forward. His ball was bravely attacked by Depoitre, who bounced off Willy Caballero and gleefully tucked the ball into the empty net.
Conte called for reinforcements from the bench as Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud entered the fray.
The pressure told on 62 minutes when Azpilicueta's cross was smacked clear by Zanka, but only straight into the face of Alonso, who knew nothing about it but had equalised for his team.
From then on Chelsea set up camp in Huddersfield territory. Azpilicueta and Willian were providing great service on the right but both Morata and Giroud couldn't force a winner home.
When the hosts did find a route to goal, Lossl was there to deny them - and in spectacular fashion on 83 minutes.
After an almighty scramble a half-clearance fell to Christensen but his header was somehow tipped onto the post by Lossl.
Huddersfield needed their goalkeeper again in the final stages as he beat away a powerful attempt from Morata while Giroud also hooked a close-range effort wide.
Huddersfield negotiated the six minutes of added time. Cue wild celebrations, led by their quite marvellous manager.
Antonio Conte: "We must be focused to finish this season. We have another game and an FA Cup final - then the club will do their best to improve their situation.
"I think for this season, for sure, it is my last home game. Not only me, but the players too. I don't have anything to add. It is not my task, there is a club to judge the situation and then take the best decision."
David Wagner: "It's a bigger achievement than the promotion - last season we were predicted to get relegated and we won promotion.
"Tonight, I think we have seen everything that counts for us and this is desire, passion, effort, attitude and togetherness and I am a strong believer that if you have the passion and desire and the spirit, you can compete sometimes with top quality."
Man of the match: Jonas Lossl
If ever you needed an example of how important having a top-class operator between the sticks is, then this was it. Lossl's save from Christensen was quite simply, extraordinary. With the ball heading into the top corner, the goalkeeper flung every inch of his being towards the ball and somehow got a strong enough touch on it to divert it onto the post. He's conceded just one goal in 180 minutes of football against Manchester City and Chelsea in the last week - and an unfortunate one at that. Sublime stuff.
- This is the third season in a row that the reigning Premier League champions have failed to secure a top-four finish (Chelsea 10th in 2015-16, Leicester 12th in 2016-17 and Chelsea 5th this term).
- The Blues mustered 22 shots in this match, though most of these came from central defender Rudiger (5).
- Depoitre is only the second player to score home and away against Chelsea in the Premier League this season, after Watford's Robert Pereyra.
Chelsea face a final day trip to Newcastle ahead of their FA Cup final date with Manchester United on May 19, while Huddersfield host Arsenal in what will be Arsene Wenger's final game in charge of the Gunners.