Marcos Alonso scored twice as Chelsea came from behind to earn a point against struggling Bournemouth in an entertaining encounter at Vitality Stadium.
Wing-back Alonso followed in Olivier Giroud’s shot which had come back off the bar to open the scoring in the 33rd minute and struck again four minutes from time to rescue the Blues, whose top-four aspirations were dealt another blow.
It could have been much worse, however, after Eddie Howe’s side scored twice in three second-half minutes through Jefferson Lerma and Joshua King to leave the visitors stunned.
The Cherries, who remain two points above the Premier League relegation places, had made an excellent start but midfielder Philip Billing spurned two glorious opportunities inside the opening five minutes before Chelsea took control.
2-2!!! ALONSO! 💪
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 29, 2020
In a reversal of the first half, Giroud should have doubled Chelsea’s advantage within minutes of the restart, but Lerma’s 54th-minute equaliser saw another momentum swing.
The hosts fought hard defensively to protect their slender lead, but Chelsea’s late pressure eventually told as Alonso popped up in the right place once again.
The draw sees Chelsea edge four points clear of fifth-placed Manchester United, who face Everton tomorrow.
Chelsea’s hold on fourth continues to slip
Chelsea arrived at Vitality Stadium with one clear objective after they were comprehensively outclassed by Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday night – to claim three points and maintain their diminishing hold on fourth position at all costs.
A disheartening 3-0 home defeat by the German champions left Chelsea’s chances of reaching the quarter-finals in tatters, and while this season – Frank Lampard’s first as Chelsea boss and with the club initially operating under a transfer ban – had always been viewed as a transitional one, falling short of fourth would surely be viewed as a failure after building a nine-point cushion to fifth place in November.
The players responded to Lampard’s claim that their season “starts now” after defeat against Manchester United almost two weeks ago, beating another top-four rival Tottenham 2-1 last weekend to end a four-game winless run, but they were rather fortunate not to find themselves behind early on against a lively Bournemouth side.
They weathered an early storm that saw Billing twice allowed to shoot from close range, a Fikayo Tomori miskick at fault for one of those as he initially appeared uncertain in his first league start since December.
But the Blues patiently asserted themselves and Mason Mount’s saved attempt after eight minutes signalled the start of an otherwise dominant first-half display – though Jorginho’s needless 10th yellow card of the campaign and subsequent two-match suspension will not have pleased manager Lampard.
Alonso was frequently Chelsea’s furthest man forward and registered seven shots – more than anyone else – as he scored in consecutive Premier League games. Ultimately, it was the Spaniard’s determination to get into the box which eventually saved Lampard’s side.
And in the absence of injured top scorer Tammy Abraham, Giroud offered a reliable target to draw his team-mates into the box as Chelsea peppered the goal with 23 attempts.
With the outcome of Manchester City’s appeal against a two-year European ban uncertain, fourth spot still offers the Premier League’s last guarantee of Champions League football, and Lampard will certainly not want to leave Chelsea’s situation out of their own hands. With their late point, they have just about managed that for now.
“We’ve created a lot again, but we need to stick the ball in the back of the net,” said manager Lampard.
“I’m very happy for Marcos Alonso but when I think that my left-back is the one scoring the two goals and he scored our last goal in the league as well, and you’re creating that many chances in between, you have to question why we’re not finishing them.”