Pedro 4/10 as Chelsea fail to get vital win vs. Huddersfield
Chelsea's hopes of a top four finish suffered a seismic blow after they drew 1-1 with Huddersfield.
The first half followed the same pattern throughout with Chelsea camped in Huddersfield's half and dominating possession while the visitors kept compact and organised. Their diligence restricted the hosts to very few genuine sights of goal. Marcos Alonso had a shot that didn't trouble the goalkeeper, though Alvaro Morata forced a decent save with a sharp side foot effort.
A lacklustre start to the second half allowed Laurent Depoitre to stun the home crowd by opening the scoring despite an apparent foul on Willian in the build up. Chelsea responded just after the hour mark, when an unwitting header from Alonso -- the ball was cleared into his face -- crept over the line. The Blues piled forward from there, with Jonas Lossl pulling off two brilliant saves to deny Andreas Christensen and Morata but a winner proved elusive.
The energy levels were high until the end and their attitude never wavered. But that is the least that should be expected. No other positives to take.
The lack of creativity in the first half was alarming. Chelsea will have known that they were going to face a packed defence, yet seemed to have little idea about how to go about breaking through it. There were too many blind flicks to nobody and passes often played more in hope than expectation.
Manager rating out of 10
4 -- Its easy to guess Antonio Conte's thinking in trying to rotate the team with two games remaining, but it was a strange time to implement a policy he has shunned all season. Instead of deploying his best XI in a must-win game, he chose to rest the likes of Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Victor Moses and Olivier Giroud. It backfired and Chelsea will now have a fully refreshed squad for a meaningless game at Newcastle. It was also clear that Chelsea did not need three centre-backs against a lone forward who barely crossed the halfway line, yet it took an hour to switch to a back four.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 5 -- Was totally redundant in the first half but showed a lack of concentration when he was too slow off his line to prevent Huddersfield's opener.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- His stock continued to rise with another commanding display. In fairness he wasn't unduly tested, but was untroubled nonetheless.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 -- Slotted back into defence comfortably. Might have won the game for the Blues only for Lossl to somehow turn his header onto the post.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 -- Tried to rekindle his telepathic link with Morata that has served them both so well this season but without ever quite hitting the mark. Played in some better crosses after the break one of which resulted in the equaliser.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 5 -- Showed plenty of willingness down the right flank without ever delivering a genuinely dangerous ball. Disappeared as an outlet in the second half.
MF N'Golo Kante, 6 -- Had a few fires to put out, which put the focus on a wayward passing game. Made one dazzling solo run in the first half that unfortunately came to nothing.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 6 -- Was always at the heart of the action but without being able to deliver the killer pass.
MF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- Didn't know much about his goal but deserved it for constantly putting himself in position. Used the ball reasonably well, though was more of a threat aerially.
FW Pedro Rodriguez, 4 -- Struggled to get into the game and always looked overly hurried when in possession. Gave the ball away countless times and was more of a hindrance than a help.
FW Willian, 6 -- Chelsea's most threatening player in the first half but without having the assistance of his teammates. Constantly found himself crowded out despite his quick feet trying to find space..
FW Alvaro Morata, 6 -- Turned a Fabregas pass goal-ward for Chelsea's best chance of the first half and stung the palms of the goalkeeper late on. However there was not enough movement from the Spain forward, the minimum required against a determined defence.
FW Olivier Giroud, 6 -- Put himself about and posed an aerial threat. Some heavy touches undid good work at times.
FW, Eden Hazard, 6 -- His introduction added another avenue of attack. Was unable to produce a decisive piece of magic.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.