Chelsea won against Bournemouth 2-0
Kai Havertz and Mason Mount secure a much-needed win for Graham Potter's side as they move to eighth after ending run of three consecutive league defeats
After looking like they needed the World Cup break as much as any Premier League team, having suffered four successive domestic defeats going into it, the time off appeared to have done Graham Potter’s side a world of good.
They were blowing an at times helpless Bournemouth away and it seemed only a matter of how many they would score and how much of a statement they would make.
This was England defender James’s first appearance for 11 weeks since suffering a knee injury in October which wrecked his hopes of going to the World Cup.
He is now Chelsea’s most influential player, remarkable for a young right-back, and provided reminders of why with his comeback coinciding with a much-improved and perked up display.
So the sad sight of a crestfallen James combined with the prospect of him suffering another setback and what that may potentially mean for him personally and Chelsea was a cause for obvious concern.
By the time James departed not long into the second half Chelsea were 2-0 up, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount putting their own World Cup disappointments behind them by giving the Londoners enough of a cushion for victory.
But the impact of James going off was evident not just in Chelsea’s reduced dominance and threat but the greater one posed by Bournemouth, encouraged by the changed mood around Stamford Bridge and absence of Chelsea’s raiding right-back.
Chelsea need no reminding of just how difficult he is to replace having had to cope without him for an extended period last season as well as this.
It was hard not to fear it is a dilemma Potter may have to solve once again.
Chelsea’s first-half display against Bournemouth was full of purpose with an obvious zip and sharpness in both their defending and attacking, a stark contrast to how they finished before the break.
James was a big part of that. Two early dashes down the right seemed at the time to be confirmation he had made a full recovery.
He was also involved in a training ground corner routine, but could only scuff his shot goalwards, before sending in a cross which caused panic and Marc Cucurella sent in from the other side for Havertz to head over. Havertz, part of the Germany squad who failed to make the knockout stages in Qatar, did not have to wait much longer to open the scoring.
Kalidou Koulibaly was then next to show Chelsea’s intent, punching in a pass to Mount from deep which he was unable to gather in, but Christian Pulisic eventually latched onto.
His first touch took him beyond Bournemouth’s Adam Smith who pulled him back but not firmly enough to prevent Pulisic getting off a shot which he clipped wide. Chelsea’s appeals for a penalty were waved away by referee Simon Hooper.
Four minutes later they were far happier when a swift move took them from back to front and Raheem Sterling fed the ball through the corridor of doubt behind Bournemouth’s backline.
There was none from Havertz as he slid into score. Midway through the half it was 2-0, Havertz turning provider to tee up Mount for a curling finish.
Mount started England’s World Cup campaign before being reduced to late substitute appearances in the knockout stages so marking his landmark 150th Chelsea start with a goal will no doubt have lifted him.
This was not turning out to be the first league game in permanent charge or of the Bill Foley reign, with Hollywood star and part-owner Michael B Jordan watching on, that Gary O’Neil would have wanted.
It was so easy for Chelsea they appeared to get bored, Thiago Silva concluding a spell of sloppy possession at the back with a wild pass across his own box which briefly gifted Bournemouth a sight of goal.
That scare woke Chelsea back up again and the half ended as much of it had been before, with them firmly on the front foot.
Pulisic had a goal ruled out due to an earlier foul by Havertz before James and Sterling’s powerful efforts were both repelled by Mark Travers.
Denis Zakaria, on his first Premier League start for Chelsea, threatened twice early in the second half, Havertz pulled a shot wide and Koulibaly also headed off target after the break.
But it was clear that the momentum had shifted with James going off.
Bournemouth had more of a spring in their step after half-time and their improved efforts and greater possession and pressure deserved reward.
But Kepa Arrizabalaga kept out attempts from Bournemouth subs Jaidon Anthony and Ryan Christie, former Chelsea youngster Dominic Solanke headed an injury-time chance wide and Chelsea’s defenders got their bodies in the way when needed to preserve their advantage.
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