February 23, 2024
Chelsea fans turn on Mauricio Pochettino and Raheem Sterling after Wolves defeat

Chelsea fans turn on Mauricio Pochettino and Raheem Sterling after Wolves defeat

There was a moment midway through Chelsea’s dire second half when Mauricio Pochettino stood on the touchline with his right hand covering his eyes.

If Chelsea remains a work in progress, by now the head coach should be seeing consistent signs of development.

But this was a miserable backwards step from a team still operating on different wavelengths, as the impressive Wolves completed a league double over the Blues for the first time since 1874–75.

Having won their four previous home league games, there had been a suggestion that Chelsea were at least turning Stamford Bridge into a place for away teams to fear again.

Moises Caicedo, removed just after an hour, provided the assist for Cole Palmer’s 10th league goal of the season, but either side of that, the £115 million summer signing was overwhelmed by Wolves’ tenacious midfield.

Ben Chilwell, not long back from injury, looked trapped in treacle as Gary O’Neil’s smarter and sharper side continuously played the ball behind him for the outstanding Pedro Neto to find joy.

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And Raheem Sterling, without a league goal since November, was loudly booed following another limp attacking performance.

Beyond the individual performances, there were clear signs of discontent, from Thiago Silva, whose wife was quickly on social media demanding a change in the dugout, having a go at Chilwell for a misplaced pass, to Caicedo punching a seat on the bench when hauled off.

It was hard to find many positives, and no wonder there were moments when Mauricio Pochettino could no longer watch.

Palmer’s opener was a lovely, flowing move, and Caicedo’s assist was perfectly weighted behind Toti Gomes. Yet every brief display of high quality was soon undone by a moment of inexplicable sloppiness.

And within two minutes of taking the lead, Caicedo’s dawdling in midfield allowed Wolves to equalise. He was pressured by Neto and Joao Gomes, with the latter then feeding Cunha.

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The Brazilian steadied himself, checked inside, and delivered a goalward attempt that took a heavy deflection off Silva and sent Djordje Petrovic the wrong way.

Chelsea continued to be careless in possession, though Wolves deserved credit for their smart pressing, and the groans turned into fury when the visitors went in front two minutes before half-time.

Neto, who continuously found joy when drifting behind Chilwell, drove down the right before playing a low cross to Rayan Ait-Nouri. The wingback shot first, and the ball ricocheted off Axel Disasi to beat Petrovic again.

Neto was close to making it 3-1 within 30 seconds of the restart, only to fire straight at Chelsea’s goalkeeper, soon followed by Raheem Sterling spurning the chance of an equaliser when drilling wide after Chilwell found him.

But any idea of Chelsea mustering up a sustained assault on the Wolves penalty area was soon put to bed by the away team’s third.

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It came from a familiar route as the irrepressible Neto advanced down the right again. With Chilwell retreating slowly, Neto instead held off Silva with ease and centered for Cunha to ruthlessly score his second.

The level of fume went up another notch as Sterling sauntered off, the anger directed at the England international rather than the decision to substitute him, and a mass exodus began when Malo Gusto committed a rash, stupid tackle to haul down Cunha in the box.

Cunha nervelessly drove home to complete his hat-trick.

Silva’s headed consolation, from a Mykhaylo Mudryk cross, was barely greeted with applause from those who remained, though Chelsea belatedly built up a head of steam and Conor Gallagher had a shot blocked a minute into 10 added on.

 

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