Goals from Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud gave Chelsea a vital 2-0 victory over Wolves at Stamford Bridge to ensure they will compete in next season’s Champions League.
A largely quiet match was set alight on the stroke of half time when Mount hit a sweetly timed free kick past Rui Patricio to give the Blues the lead. Moments later, Mount turned provider to set up Giroud, who calmly slotted home inside the box after a surging run from Christian Pulisic caught Wolves off guard.
The result ensured a guaranteed spot in Europe’s top competition next season for the home side, who turned up when it mattered most for manager Frank Lampard.
Defeat for Wolves meant they were overtaken by Tottenham on goal difference and they’ll need to either win the Europa League or hope Chelsea beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final to qualify for Europe next season.
Key Talking Point
Lampard wasn’t taking any chances on the final day, re-installing experienced veteran Willy Caballero in goal ahead of the much criticised Kepa Arrizabalaga.
They were also without influential players Willian and N’Golo Kante and, with marquee signing Timo Werner watching on from the stands, the pressure was on from the start for the Blues to grab the vital point required.
Defensively, Chelsea looked more solid than last time out against Liverpool, but going forward they couldn’t find a way through the Wolves backline in the opening exchanges, with the in-form Pulisic kept largely quiet.
The impressive Mateo Kovacic once again looked to dictate play and was strong both in and out of possession, his driving runs being the catalyst for turning defence into attack for the Blues.
Mount’s perfect strike then put the home side in front on the stroke of half time to give Chelsea a timely boost. They seemed to click into attacking gear off the back of it, with Pulisic’s first contribution of any note leading to Mount’s delicately weighted through ball, which Giroud latched on to with all the clinical precision we’ve come to expect from the Frenchman since the restart.
The second half was a more subdued affair, but Chelsea showed control and maturity to see off Wolves’ attacking threat and guarantee their place alongside Europe’s elite once again.
Starting XI: Caballero (7); Azpilicueta (7), Zouma (8), Rudiger (7); James (7), Kovacic (8), Jorginho (7), Alonso (7); Mount (8*), Giroud (8), Pulisic (7).
Substitutes: Hudson-Odoi (7), Abraham (7), Pedro (N/A), Loftus-Cheek (N/A), Barkley (N/A).
The Blues midfielder was the difference between the two sides, with an exquisite free kick putting his side ahead and a delightful through ball setting Giroud up for the second.
The England international looked in an imperious and determined mood throughout, and with good reason, with the potential arrival of Kai Havertz set to make his path to the starting XI a little more challenging next season.
Key Talking Point
Wolves, perhaps looking to capitalise on fatigue later in the match, kept several key forwards on the bench, including Adama Traore. However, it didn’t go to plan with their usual water tight defensive line broken on the stroke of half time, a double blow ensuring they had it all to do.
They began to slow down defensively as the first half ended and were caught napping for Chelsea’s second goal. They will, however, probably feel aggrieved by the awarding of Mount’s free kick for the opener, as it appeared there was minimal contact on Alonso.
Nuno Espirito Santo introduced Traore at half time to try to salvage a result and Wolves looked a little livelier. Their end product, however, was lacking all afternoon, with Raul Jimenez isolated up front and marked out the game by an impressive Chelsea backline.
It may well have been one game too many in Wolves’ lengthy season that has seen them clock up more travel miles than any other Premier League side.
Starting XI: Patricio (7), Boly (7), Coady (6), Saiss (6); Doherty (7), Neves (7), Dendoncker (7), Jonny (6); Neto (7), Jota (7), Jimenez (6)
Substitutes: Traore (6), Podence (7), Vinagre (6), Moutinho (7), Jordao (N/A)
While Wolves lacked a real star when they needed one desperately, Dendoncker performed reasonably well in central midfield.
The Belgium international won five aerial duels and made five tackles in a solid performance, though like the rest of Wolves’ players couldn’t affect the game enough in an attacking sense.
Chelsea head to Wembley next weekend for the FA Cup final against Arsenal with their only realistic chance of silverware on the line. They then resume their Champions League knockout tie with Bayern Munich on 8 August, trailing 3-0 from the first leg.
Wolves host Olympiacos in the knockout stages of the Europa League on 6 August, with the tie level at 1-1 after the first leg. They will face Sevilla or Roma in the quarter finals if they progress.