Swansea City 0 Chelsea 1 match report: 'It's a second yellow for me,' how John Terry helped influence 'Phil the ref' to send off Chico Flores

The Spaniard for dismissed for the home side in the 16th minute

THE LIBERTY STADIUM

Jose Mourinho refused to come out and speak for his post-game press conference but, on this occasion, he would not have been able to spin it or downplay it: Chelsea have a huge say in this title race.

On Sunday, against 10-man Swansea City, they took an appreciable step. That was thanks to Demba Ba making a significant leap. Although this was the striker’s first start since 6 October, he ended up providing the finish that Chelsea so badly needed.

But the dismissal of Chico Flores for a second yellow card as early as the 16th minute undoubtedly helped Chelsea’s cause and John Terry revealed afterwards the part he played in referee Phil Dowd’s decision, which he arrived at only after long deliberation. “I just said, ‘It’s a second yellow for me’,” said the captain. “He gave him one a couple of minutes before on the halfway line and that one just outside the box is probably even more a yellow than the other one. Fair play to Phil, the ref, it was a big decision to make and I thought he made the right one.”

In truth, this game showed why they had recently lost the lead. Despite playing against 10 men for so long, Chelsea made hard work of opening Swansea up. It has been a recurring theme of their season, culminating in Mourinho’s notorious complaints about his forwards. Here, the most overlooked saved him.

 

“It has been a very good week for the whole club, the fans and my family,” said Ba, who scored the decisive goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final. “I always believe, even though it’s hard when you don’t play, because fitness and confidence go down. I just said I would give everything and the goal came.”

Steve Holland, Chelsea’s assistant manager, praised Ba for his perseverance. “He deserves that,” Holland said. “He’s always working in training, afterwards on his own, this type of finishing, that type of finishing.”

In truth, it was not the cleanest finish. After Nemanja Matic had played Ba in on 68 minutes, the forward seemed to have taken the ball the wrong side before benefiting from a deflection. The relief was palpable after so many missed chances.

Before that, Mohamed Salah, Willian, Oscar, Samuel Eto’o and Ba himself had squandered clear opportunities. It looked like it was going to be one big missed chance.

It is also the one big worry for Chelsea in this run-in. While they possess the cast-iron defence that Liverpool and Manchester City do not, they also lack the firepower with which their two rivals more regularly blow away lesser teams. In that, Chelsea’s favourable run-in – excluding that trip to Anfield in two weeks – may actually be a disadvantage. Ominous as Mourinho’s team look, there is the feeling that they have one more blank in them. This came very close to being it, despite the extra man.

Holland, however, argued that the red card had been a disadvantage in the context. “If anything, it’s probably more difficult than against a team that opens up against you and leaves space.

“In that situation, it was not that different than normal. We were trying to get the ball into wide positions, to get bodies in the box. That was very much the thinking at half-time. We needed three in the middle and went two up.”

One of them provided the winner, and may prove the wild card in this race.

Chico’s second yellow came after André Schürrle had been pulled down, and Garry Monk could not dispute that, though did have a problem with the nature of Chelsea’s protests before the red was issued.

“If you go by the letter of the law, it is a sending-off,” the Swansea manager said. “The more disappointing thing is it looked like he signalled [it was not a booking] straight away. So for their bench and manager to surround the fourth official, and their players to surround the referee himself... the circumstances make it strange.”

Swansea’s circumstances in the table, however, have become that bit worse. Despite looking to the positive of having their fate in their own hands at three points clear of relegation, Monk feels that “probably two more wins would make it secure”.

Holland believes Chelsea must win all their remaining games: “That’s the likelihood, but we’ve been facing that task for a good couple of weeks, certainly on the back of the [1-0 defeat] at Crystal Palace. Any leeway we had was eliminated with that result.”

Here, however, Chelsea only added a layer of complexity to the title race. Although it is Liverpool’s to lose, Mourinho’s side have it in their own hands to finish above Brendan Rodgers’ team but require another slip from Manchester City. Manuel Pellegrini, ironically, now needs a favour from Mourinho at Anfield.

If all that is confusing, Ba made this match all too clear. Just when it looked as though it was going to be one of those days, the forward continued his superb week.

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