Cherries blitz Chelsea

Olivier Giroud’s presence on the sidelines provided confirmation Antonio Conte had got the new striker he wanted during the January transfer window.

Cherries blitz Chelsea

That was of no consolation at all, however, for the Chelsea manager who was left stunned after his side were overwhelmed by three goals in 16 second-half minutes from a Bournemouth side whose main focus is steering clear of the bottom three.

Giroud had arrived after completing an £18m move from Arsenal earlier in the day but too late to feature.

His presence on the field would undoubtedly have helped but Chelsea’s problems ran far deeper, and were particularly evident at the back, as they were undone by goals from Callum Wilson, Junior Stanislas and Nathan Ake, the former Chelsea defender.

With the battle for a top four finish set to intensify during the final months of the season, Conte can only hope his side can quickly move on from this result.

Giroud’s arrival had triggered the departure of Michy Batshuayi to Borussia Dortmund on loan and with Alvaro Morata and Willian both sidelined, the inclusion of Ross Barkley for his first start of the season confirmed the extent to which Conte’s forward resources were stretched.

The Italian had made it clear he believed the England international had some way to go before he was ready to play a full role in his side after making his first appearance in an injury-scarred campaign in last week’s Carabao Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal.

Nevertheless, Conte included Barkley on the left of a front three with Eden Hazard taking the central role and Pedro operating on the right.

The reshaped attack struggled to fire during and the opening 30 minutes that were largely controlled by Bournemouth. Indeed, had Eddie Howe’s side showed more of a cutting edge they could have established the lead before Chelsea belatedly found their stride.

A neat one-two between Junior Stanislas and Charlie Daniels created the chance for the Bournemouth winger to test fit-again Thibaut Courtois with a powerful shot.

And had Wilson not been penalised after clipping Andreas Christensen’s heels as he attempted to support a break led by Ryan Fraser, Courtois might had faced a much sterner test.

Chelsea’s early problems were compounded when Christensen was forced off with a hamstring injury in the 27th minute although the impact of the loss was not immediately felt. In fact, Conte’s side responded by producing their best moments of the first half in the latter stages of the opening period although poor finishing ensured they reached the interval on level terms.

Hazard was the guiltiest culprit when he failed to make contact with Marcos Alonso’s cross when left unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box.

Conte was also left frustrated by Alonso’s failure to direct a header on target and when Gary Cahill headed over .

The Italian could be satisfied his side were in the ascendancy in the run up to half time. But the growing optimism was quickly extinguished just six minutes into the second period when Wilson put Bournemouth ahead.

Cahill had moved into the middle of the back three when Christensen went off but the Blues captain was caught out after Wilson had won the ball from Tiemoue Bakayoko in midfield and advanced to collect Jordon Ibe’s return pass before slotting past Courtois.

Cesar Azpilicueta did Cahill no favours by dropping back to play Wilson onside and there was little doubt the home defence had been undone far too easily. Unfortunately for Conte, they failed to learn their lesson.

Chelsea’s immediate response to falling behind was positive with Hazard threatening Asmir Begovic’s goal. But Bournemouth again found a way through, this time winning possession on their left hand flank, when Wilson picked out Stanislas’s run and the winger drilled the ball past Courtois in the 64th minute.

Worse was to come when Bournemouth quickly forced another corner and Conte’s side failed to clear. Wilson chased a loose ball before pulling back to Stanislas whose shot was turned home by former Chelsea defender Ake.

Chelsea (3-4-3):

Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 5, Christensen 6 (Rudiger 27, 6), Cahill 5; Zappacosta 5 (Hudson-Odoi 65, 6), Kante 7, Bakayoko 5, Alonso 7; Pedro 6, Hazard 6, Barkley 5 (Fabregas 54, 6).

Subs:

Caballero, Drinkwater, Moses, Ampadu.

Bournemouth (3-4- 3):

Begovic 7; Francis 7, S Cook 7, Ake 8; Fraser 7, Gosling 7, L Cook 8, Daniels 7; Ibe 7 (Pugh 83), Wilson 9 (Mousset 90), Stanislas 8 (King 71).

Subs:

Boruc, Surman, Arter, Simpson.

Referee:

Lee Probert 7

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