Chelsea 2-2 Nottingham Forest: Cooper’s side take significant step towards Premier League safety
Just how crucial a point this will be for Nottingham Forest will be determine over the coming fortnight as they came from behind against Chelsea in a thrilling game that swung back and forth to get a draw, thanks to a brace from Taiwo Awoniyi.
Two goals in the space of seven-half minutes for Raheem Sterling seemed to have set Chelsea on their way to a first home win under Frank Lampard since his return but Awoniyi’s headed equaliser after his header earlier had put Forest ahead, ensured that Steve Cooper’s side would end the day three points clear of the drop, after Leeds’s lunchtime draw against Newcastle.
Lampard made five changes with Edouard Mendy replacing Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal to make his first Chelsea appearance since November and Sterling, Mateo Kovacic and Joao Felix coming in, alongside 18-year-old Lewis Hall.
For Forest, Cooper made one switch from their 4-3 win on Monday night with Joe Worrall coming in for Brennan Johnson as the Forest manager opted to start with three at the back.
Taiwo Awoniyi nodded in Nottingham Forest’s opener within the first 15 minutes of an exciting encounter at Stamford Bridge
Forest looked comfortable for much of the first half thereafter and had chances to double their advantage on the break
Moussa Niakhate stepping up caused Chelsea issues and the Blues’ midfield appeared to struggle with positioning throughout
Both sides had scored the same amount of goals in the league this season, going into the contest, though the visitors arrived on the back of seven successive away defeats and with the worst Premier League away record this season. Yet Chelsea were winless in six home games. Something had to give.
It was Forest who started the brighter with Felipe heading wide from Renan Lodi’s corner and shortly after, the breakthrough came.
It was far too easy for Forest as Lodi swung in a cross from the left and Awoniyi rose highest in between Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile to head past a flapping Mendy.
‘30 signings, who gives a f*ck, we’re Nottingham Forest and we’re staying up,’ sang the 3000 Forest fans in the Shed End.
Chelsea responded with Sterling denied by a superb sliding challenge from Worrall when he was through on goal, before Hall’s effort from close range was blocked and then Navas was on hand to meet Felix’s header from Hall’s cross.
Raheem Sterling scored twice within seven second half minutes to turn the game on its head and have Forest supporters fearing the worst
His brilliant second left the Forest players devastated – it was perhaps his best moment yet in a Chelsea shirt having arrived last summer
Forest players managed to muster something from the depths of their devastation to produce a stirring showing in the last half an hour
Paul Tierney did not endear himself to either side – with the referee appearing to greatly annoy the Forest players
At the half-hour mark, the £107million man Enzo Fernandez blasted a free kick from just outside the box high and into the stands and when Mateo Kovacic hobbled off just before the break with injury, Chelsea’s plight was somewhat summed up.
Paul Tierney’s half-time whistle was met with a chorus of boos from around the ground as Ryan Yates turned to encourage the Forest fans to keep on going.
And they should have doubled their lead straight after the break when Lodi’s corner was touched on by Felipe to the back post and Moussa Niakhate sliced his effort wide.
Down the other end, Chelsea’s equaliser came as Trevor Chalobah’s ball across goal landed at the feet of Sterling whose strike ended in the back of net after a deflection and suddenly the hosts began to turn the screw.
Conor Gallagher’s effort was saved by Navas before Felix’s effort from outside the box went over but shortly before the hour mark, Sterling gave Chelsea the lead with a superb finish.
Taiwo Awoniyi potentially scored one of Nottingham Forest’s biggest goals of the season with his equaliser against Chelsea
It is only Forest’s seventh point on the road all season and they celebrated it like a victory at the end of an exciting afternoon
Forest defended doggedly after their equaliser – with all 10 outfield players regularly camped inside their own box
Steve Cooper and Frank Lampard shared a warm embrace after the game as the season hurtles towards a grandstand finish
The England international received the ball from a driving Ruben Loftus-Cheek down the left flank and sat down Felipe as he cut inside, before curling a right-footed effort past Navas and into the top corner.
But Forest weren’t going down without a fight and just four minutes later they were level again as Awoniyi headed in from close range after Orel Mangala’s cross for his fourth goal this week.
The Nigerian had four in 23 appearances before that and after a VAR check for offside, the goal stood.
Forest believed again and nearly snatched a winner with Lodi smashing wide from just outside the box. At the other end, Sterling headed wide from six yards out as neither side could find a winner.
For Forest, it was only their seventh point on the road all season and as the whistle went, it was celebrated like a win from the travelling contingent.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Mendy 5, Chalobah 6, Silva 6, Badiashile 6, Hall 7, Kovacic 5 (Loftus-Cheek 45+1), Fernandez 6, Gallagher 6, Madueke 6 (Ziyech 73, 5), Félix 6 (Havertz 73, 5), Sterling 8.
Subs unused: Arrizabalaga, Pulisic, Mudryk, Datro Fofana, Azpilicueta, Fofana
Goals: Sterling 51, 58
Bookings: Felix, Silva, Gallagher
Manager: Frank Lampard 6
Nottingham Forest (3-4-2-1): Navas 6, Worrall 7, Felipe 6, Niakhate 6, Aurier 6, Mangala 6, Danilo 7 (Toffolo 90+1), Lodi 7, Yates 7 (Kouyate 85), Awoniyi 8 (Johnson 81), Gibbs-White 7.
Subs unused: Hennessey, Lingard, Surridge, Freuler, Boly, Ayew.
Goals: Awoniyi 13, 62
Manager: Steve Cooper 7
Referee: Paul Tierney 7