Serge Aurier’s first Nottingham Forest goal canceled out Raheem Sterling’s strike and earned the Premier League strugglers a deserved 1-1 draw against a lackluster Chelsea at the City Ground.
Forest went into the game knowing a victory would move them out of the relegation zone and, while they were unable to claim all three points, Steve Cooper was happy with the much-improved second-half performance that saw his side claim a valuable point.
As for Chelsea, a win would have seen them move to within five points of the top four and they looked well on their way to doing so when Sterling gave them a half-time lead.
But Graham Potter’s side produced a dreadful display in the second 45 minutes that saw them hand the initiative to Forest and leave themselves eighth in the Premier League before a daunting trip to Manchester City on Thursday.
Nottingham Forest: Henderson (6), Aurier (7), Worrall (7), Boly (8), Lodi (6), Yates (6), Freuler (6), Mangala (6), Johnson (7), Gibbs-White (8 ), Awoniyi (7).
Subs: Colback (6), Surridge (n/a), Williams (n/a).
Chelsea: Kepa (7), Azpilicueta (6), Koulibaly (5), Silva (7), Cucurella (7), Zakaria (5), Jorginho (5), Mount (6), Sterling (6), Havertz (5), Pulisic (6).
Subs: Kovacic (5), Ziyech (6), Gallagher (5), Aubameyang (5).
Man of the match: Willy Boly.
How Forest came back to leave Chelsea on the ropes
Forest may have slumped to a 3-0 loss at Manchester United earlier this week, but their form before the World Cup break demonstrated their ability to compete with the biggest sides in the Premier League.
Liverpool and Tottenham were both beaten at the City Ground before the mid-season break and Chelsea nearly had their name added to that list after a spirited fightback from Cooper’s side.
- Forest made two changes, with Henderson returning in place of Hennessey and Gibbs-White coming in for the injured Lingard.
- Chelsea’s only change saw Azpilicueta as in the absent James.
Chelsea barely got out of second gear in the first half and could have been behind when Brennan Johnson burst clear, but Kepa Arrizabalaga did well to keep out the Wales international’s effort.
The Blues took the lead shortly after when Willy Boly contrived to turn Christian Pulisic’s cross onto his own crossbar, leaving Sterling to tap in the rebound from just yards out (16).
But that was pretty much it from Chelsea in an attacking sense, with Potter’s side coasting towards half-time before finding themselves dominated by Forest in the second period.
Morgan Gibbs-White, back in the starting XI after a calf injury, almost drew the hosts level with a cracking effort from the edge of the area that crashed against the crossbar before just failing to cross Kepa’s line.
But Aurier was able to beat Kepa just after the hour mark when Chelsea produced some less-than-convincing defending from a corner, leaving the former Tottenham full-back to control the loose ball before volleying it under the goalkeeper (63).
Forest appeared happy to settle for a point as the game ticked towards full-time, allowing Chelsea the opportunity to re-establish an element of control, and they should have scored a late winner when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang somehow failed to meet Hakim Ziyech’s sumptuous right wing cross.
But the Blues were forced to accept a point that does far less for their hopes of finishing in the top four than it does for Forest’s chances of avoiding a return to the Championship.
Forest to investigate alleged homophobic chants
Chelsea’s official LGBTQ+ supporters group has condemned alleged homophobic chanting from Nottingham Forest fans.
A tweet from Chelsea Pride read: “We totally condemn the chant that can be heard at the City Ground. Time to call this out – the game is live on Sky Sports. This is now classified as a hate crime.”
Forest confirmed they are investigating, releasing a statement saying: “The club are aware of reports concerning chants aimed at Chelsea supporters from a minority of fans this evening and do not condone any type of discriminatory or offensive behaviour. The matter will be fully investigated. “
Cooper: A point is the least we deserved
Steve Cooper urged Nottingham Forest to take “spirit” from their performance against Chelsea, which he said was good enough to earn at least a point.
“You’re playing Chelsea, we have to accept that,” said the Forest boss. “Tactically we were really good in the game, first and second half.
“First half we weren’t aggressive enough with our press. We waited too long before going after the ball. You can’t just go after the ball against Chelsea because you’ll get played through and you’re too open, but you’ve got to get up to the ball at the right time.
“I think we were unlucky with the goal. It hits the bar and could go anywhere but drops onto Raheem’s right foot.
“Second-half we were much more aggressive in our duels. We were the better team, for me, over the course of the game, if you look at the amount of real chances in the game. On the basis of that, a point is the least we deserve. We should take a bit of spirit from the performance.”
Potter admits performance ‘wasn’t good enough’
Chelsea head coach Graham Potter said his side did not move the ball quickly enough against Forest and their display was not worthy of claiming all three points.
“It’s a hard-earned point against a team that’s set up well,” Potter told Sky Sports. “They used the atmosphere and, certainly in the second half, put us under a lot of pressure.
“Our performance level wasn’t good enough to take the three points. When we had control of the ball, our passing wasn’t fast enough and there wasn’t enough movement.
“We rallied a little bit but it would have been unfair to take the three points.”
Profligate Chelsea can’t afford second-half no-shows
Sky Sports’ Joe Shread:
Whatever Graham Potter says to his Chelsea players during the half-time of matches, it isn’t working.
The Blues dropped their performance level significantly during the second half of their win at home to Bournemouth earlier this week, with just one shot on target recorded as the Cherries let them off the hook with some poor finishing.
Potter’s side were at it again at the City Ground, producing just one shot during the entire second period with an expected total of only 0.26 goals.
Chelsea had to expect a reaction after half-time from a Forest side playing in front of a boisterous support, but the way in which they were dominated by opponents who ended the day still in the relegation zone was hugely concerning.
After going into the World Cup break on the back of three successive defeats without scoring a goal, Potter needed to oversee back-to-back wins in their first two matches as the Premier League returned to breathe life back into their pursuit of a top- four place.
But Chelsea were unable to do so, with four points from two matches against two struggling sides leaving them seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United.
With champions Manchester City coming to Stamford Bridge on Thursday night – live on Sky Sports – and a rematch taking place at the Etihad in the FA Cup third round next Sunday, the schedule only gets tougher for Chelsea.
Potter went into the World Cup with pressure building just months after his arrival from Brighton. If his side suffer another Premier League defeat on Thursday and then find themselves out of the FA Cup this time next week, that pressure will be back in abundance.
Opta stats: Forest finally produces comeback
- Nottingham Forest avoided defeat in a Premier League game after conceding first for the first time this season. Before today, they’d lost their seven such games by an aggregate score of 23-0.
- After winning their first three Premier League games under Graham Potter, Chelsea have only won one of their last seven (D3 L3) and none of the last four on the road (D2 L2).
- Chelsea have just 25 points in their 16 Premier League matches this season (W7 D4 L5), their fewest at this stage since the 2015-16 campaign, when they only had 15 after 16 games.
- Since his Premier League debut in October 2020, no player has more yellow cards in the Premier League than Conor Gallagher (23), who was booked for Chelsea in this game.
FPL Stats: Nottingham Forest vs. Chelsea
|Bonus points||Boly (3), Sterling (2), Aurier (1)|
Nottingham Forest’s next match is against Southampton at St Mary’s on Wednesday, with the Premier League game kicking off at 7.30pm.
Steve Cooper’s side then travel to Blackpool for their FA Cup third-round fixture on Saturday – kick-off at 3pm.
Chelsea’s next outing is against Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on Thursday, with the Premier League clash live on Sky Sports from 6.30pm – kick-off at 8pm.
The Blues then travel to the Etihad for a rematch with City in the FA Cup third round on Sunday – kick-off at 4.30pm.