Demba Ba’s fourth league goal of the Premier League season kept Chelsea in touch with leaders Liverpool as they won 1-0 away to 10-man Swansea.
Having seen Liverpool kick off the day with a significant 3-2 victory over Manchester City at Anfield, Chelsea knew that nothing less than three points at the Liberty Stadium would suffice.
They fired blanks for much of the game, but in the end garnered another valuable win thanks to Ba’s clinical strike 22 minutes from time against a Swansea side who’d long since been a man down following Chico Flores’s early dismissal for two yellow cards.
Chelsea made five changes from the side that defeated Paris Saint-Germain in the closing moments of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter final second leg at Stamford Bridge.
Amongst those to earn a place in Jose Mourinho’s XI was Ba, in only his third start of the season after scoring against PSG.
Swansea, again without Michu, left Jonathan de Guzman on the bench but went with an attacking line up that included Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernandez.
Chelsea should have been a goal to the good inside six muinytes when Mohamed Salah somehow shot wide after a wonderful cross from the overlapping full back Branislav Ivanovic.
At the other end, Swansea’s best chance to break the deadlock came in the 14th minute when Wilfried Bony latched on to Angel Rangel’s cross and duly brought out the best in leaping Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
The game, however, turned on two yellow cards for Flores. Referee Phil Dowd dished out the first for a foul on Willian and the second was brandished for a clinical trip on Andre Schurrle.
It took Dowd an age to make his decision with Swansea clearly concerned that the official had come under intense pressure from the Chelsea players.
Caretaker manager Garry Monk was also upset by the ferocity of Blues boss Jose Mourinho’s appeals to the fourth official.
As you would expect, Chelsea dominated the ball thereafter with Willian becoming increasingly influential.
However, Swansea defended with great strength and desire and the visitors were restricted to one or two chances. Willian miscued from distance and Salah, inexplicably fired over from a dozen yards.
Mourinho swapped Schurrle and Ramires for Eto’o and Oscar at half-time and Chelsea immediately looked more of a potent force.
Eto’o was close to converting a cross from Willian, four minutes into the second half before Oscar’s ambitious strike was blocked by Ashley Williams.
Needing to gamble, Mourinho changed his formation dramatically with Eto’o and Ba leading a four-man front line that, by now, included Willian and Salah.
Swansea were just about starved of possession and though Bony worked tirelessly to provide an outlet, the hosts were unable to keep the ball long enough to service the Ivorian striker.
Chelsea continued to knock at the door and somehow, with only Michel Vorm to beat, Eto’o tugged his shot wide.
Chelsea continued to pour forward and their pressure finally told in the 68th minute .
Nemanja Matic picked out Ba 30 yards from goal and though Ashley Williams was in close proximity, the former Newcastle striker beat Vorm from 20 yards.
Swansea did their level best to sneak a late equaliser and Shelvey almost deceived Cech with a dipping cross that the keeper clawed to safety.
The Welsh club’s failure to secure an equaliser ;eft them just three points above the relegation zone.