A rarely seen Chelsea star finally found his feet, though Christian Pulisic was twice denied by a supreme Wolves performer in a 0-0 draw at Molineux.
Despite Chelsea’s request for postponement following additional Covid cases, the Premier League ordered the Sunday clash with Wolves to go ahead.
Wolves thought they’d broken the deadlock in the 15th minute after a flowing move saw Daniel Podence tap home at the far post. However, the VAR-assisted offside flag came to Chelsea’s rescue with Raul Jimenez correctly ruled offside in the build-up.
Christian Pulisic spurned a glorious opportunity when put through one-v-one. That chance aside, Wolves were the dominant force for much of the first half and came closest to opening the scoring through Leander Dendoncker.
The introduction of much-maligned loanee Saul Niguez helped stem the flow in the second half. The Blues looked the likelier of the two to snatch a winner, but Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa refused to be beaten when denying Pulisic for a second time.
Jose Sa: Crucially stayed on his feet and forced Pulisic wide when the American was played through one-v-one. Superb stop to deny Pulisic for a second time late in the second half. 8/10
Max Kilman: Helped keep Chelsea at arm’s length with Wolves remarkably comfortable against Chelsea’s makeshift attack. 7
Conor Coady: Perfectly-timed challenge scuppered Pulisic when the American was poised to let fly from the edge of the area. Given a sterner test after the break as Chelsea finally began to pose problems in the final third. Nonetheless, the Wolves captain did what he does best and stood up tall throughout. 8
Romain Saiss: No-nonsense outing for the centre-back aside from a single slack pass that ultimately came to nothing. Contributed towards Chelsea’s problems down their right. 7
Ki-Jana Hoever: Full-blooded effort from the youngster and on this display, he’ll take more minutes off Nelson Semedo coming up. Blazed past Alonso mid-way through the second-half but lacked the final ball when pulling the ball back to no one. 7
Leander Dendoncker: Saw a glorious opportunity to put his side ahead saved when nodding his header too close to Mendy. 6
Chance! Podence picks Dendoncker out at the back post with a fantastic cross, the midfielder rises to meet it but his headed effort is too close to Edouard Mendy who saves. #WOLCHE
— Wolves (@Wolves) December 19, 2021
Ruben Neves: Helped Wolves win the midfield battle in the first half against the returning Kante and out-of-position Chalobah. Found it far tougher following Saul’s introduction. 6
Joao Moutinho: Showed class and maturity in the engine room and benefitted from having an extra body alongside him. 6
Fernando Marcal: A threat going forward down the left and helped to push Reece James back early on. Overhit a cross straight after the break that could’ve seen Podence nod home after ghosting in unmarked at the far post. 7
Raul Jimenez: A handful all afternoon and contributed towards two Chelsea players being cautioned. Would have hoped for an opportunity to test Mendy but it wasn’t to be. 7
Daniel Podence: Lively display with the Portuguese prepared to do the running around and off the back of Jimenez. Sublime cross to tee up Dendoncker from which the Belgian would’ve expected to power his header past Mendy. Faded after the break with opportunities to show his pace in desperately short supply. 7
Adama Traore (On for Podence, 79m): N/A
Francisco Trincao (On for Jimenez, 89m): N/A
Edouard Mendy: Fine stop to preserve parity when Dendoncker found space in the air. 6
Cesar Azpilicueta: Seen in regular conversation with Chelsea’s coaching staff after Wolves threatened to overload Chelsea’s right side. Bounced back well after the break and helped nullify the lively Podence. 6
Thiago Silva: Calm and composed as ever and made a handful of vital early interventions. Saul’s substitution allowed Chelsea to push greater numbers forward which in turn left the back three more exposed. That did not affect the mercurial Brazilian who again rolled back the years with a commanding display. 9 (Man of the match)
Antonio Rudiger: Quieter afternoon with the majority of Wolves’ threat coming down the opposite flank. What little he had to do he did well. 7
Reece James: Struggled with when to join the attack at times with Marcal and Podence a constant menace down his flank. Finally began to find joy in the final third, though half-time came just as Chelsea were finding their feet. 6
Trevoh Chalobah: Selected in midfield with Tuchel’s middle options further depleted by Covid. Never lacked for effort, but understandably struggled at times. Booked for a late challenge on Jimenez and replaced by Saul at half time. 4
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N’Golo Kante: Showed no signs of a hangover after returning from an injury lay-off. Buzzed about with energy and purpose, though Lage’s decision to place an extra man in midfield meant it was a battle throughout. A tad fortunate to escape punishment when a long ball cannoned off his chest and onto his arm with Podence ready to pounce in behind. Darting run crafted an opportunity for Pulisic and his return from injury will be a huge relief to Tuchel and co. 8
Marcos Alonso: Sketchy again from a defensive standpoint. Strangely gifted Dendoncker a free header for the Wolves midfielder’s great chance. Beaten for pace by Hoever but escaped punishment when the full-back couldn’t pick out a teammate with his cut-back. 5
Mason Mount: Seemed unsure of precisely where he was meant to play in the first half. Showed the classiest touches of the Blues’ front three in an otherwise disappointing first half. Probed for an opening after the break but Wolves rearguard would not give. 7
Hakim Ziyech: Largely ineffective showing with Chelsea’s forward trio lacking cohesion and cutting edge in the first half. Hobbled off when replaced by Kovacic with 25m remaining. 5
Christian Pulisic: Lacked killer instinct when failing to pull the trigger after being played through by Kante. Showed great pace when forging another attempt at beating Sa late in the second half, but the goalkeeper pawed his effort to safety. 6
Saul Niguez (On for Chalobah, 46m): Helped stabilise Chelsea’s midfield and offered a platform from which Chelsea could attack. On today’s showing, there’ll be plenty more minutes on the horizon even with Kante and Kovacic’s return from injury. 8
Mateo Kovacic (On for Ziyech, 65m): Suicidal pass inside his own area gifted Marcal possession but the full-back couldn’t capitalise. 5