Chelsea 2-4 Wolves (Palmer 19′, Silva 86′ | Cunha 22′ 63′, 82′ pen, Disasi OG 43′)
STAMFORD BRIDGE — Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers are both supposed to be works in progress, but progress was only detectable in one team yesterday.
Gary O’Neil has made Wolves into an impressively cohesive unit, while Chelsea appear to be in reverse. They were jeered off and still look like less than the sum of some very expensive parts.
Matheus Cunha – at a reported £44m, only the second-most expensive striker on the field after Chelsea’s Christopher Nkunku – scored a hat-trick and has now been directly involved in 12 of Wolves’ past 15 goals: now that’s value. In contrast, Nkunku was substituted, as was Moises Caicedo, who cost £115m.
Wolves have lost just once in nine matches, while Chelsea’s encouraging run before losing 4-1 at Liverpool was revealed as a mirage. Frustrations were very evident among the Blues on the pitch as well as in the stands.
Mauricio Pochettino, the Chelsea manager, apologised to the supporters but pleaded for them to back his young players while accepting that he will be a target – there were even shouts for the return of Jose Mourinho.
“I think we are all not good enough at the moment, that is the reality,” he said.
“No-one can be safe. We are all responsible. We are not matching the history of the club but we cannot give up.
“We are disappointed like them [the fans]. They have the right to be angry. I am human but you need to accept that the things that happened today can happen.
“You need to be strong. The players want to deliver a good show but they feel the pressure and need the help of the fans. It’s not to demand anything but we need to be behind them and help them to recover from this.”
Cole Palmer’s opener, his tenth Premier League goal of the season, was a false dawn and Wolves went into the break 2-1 ahead after shots from Cunha and Rayan Ait-Nouri were deflected in by Chelsea defenders.
Cunha completed his treble in the second half before Thiago Silva made the score appear less disastrous in added time.
“I’m unbelievably proud of the players and staff,” O’Neil said.
“We weren’t able to strengthen in January so everybody understands that they have to pull together. We are in transition but managing the transition well.”
Chelsea’s elegant opener promised more than they could deliver. Conor Gallagher demanded a pass from Enzo Fernandez and his instant lay-off opened a diagonal for Caicedo to send Palmer in to beat Jose Sa.
Many Chelsea fans are unconvinced about Caicedo, but if the Ecuadorian had won any converts then, he changed their minds back again two minutes later, losing the ball to Joao Gomes in midfield and then making an unconvincing attempt to recover before Cunha levelled, his shot looping in off his countryman Silva.
Chelsea’s fragile confidence instantly collapsed.
“It was a difficult moment to manage after that,” Pochettino admitted.
Pedro Neto had always looked on the verge of embarrassing the left side of the Chelsea defence with his pace and trickery, and a minute before the interval he charged clear of Ben Chilwell and crossed low, Ait-Nouri’s first-time shot going in off Axel Disasi.
No sooner had Pochettino replaced the hapless Caicedo with Nicolas Jackson than Wolves scored again, Neto outpacing Silva down the right and cutting the ball back for Cunha to hit the net, unassisted by defenders on this occasion.
Cunha made it 4-1 from the penalty spot after tempting Malo Gusto into a lunging challenge before Silva glanced in Mykhailo Mudryk’s corner.