Chelsea’s poor season continues as Sterling’s brace not enough vs. Forest

LONDON — Raheem Sterling scored twice as Chelsea played out a tense 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. The result means Chelsea are still waiting for their first win at home under interim manager Frank Lampard, while Taiwo Awoniyi‘s double for Forest means they get another valuable point as they continue their battle against relegation.

Lampard made five changes ahead of the match, but it was Forest who took the initiative in the first half as Awoniyi opened the scoring with a header amid Chelsea defensive chaos in the 13th minute.

Chelsea were booed off at half-time, but it was Sterling who gave them a 2-1 lead with well-taken goals in the 51st and 58th minute. But Chelsea’s joy was short-lived as Awoniyi grabbed a second header after 62 minutes. Chelsea hammered away at Forest’s line late on, but it’s the visitors who’ll leave Stamford Bridge the happier out of the two sides with a valuable point.

Rapid reaction

1. Chelsea need change before stability

Though Chelsea dominated the second half, the boos from the Chelsea fans were loud and unavoidable at half time. On a day when Chelsea were marking 25 years since the 1998 group won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, there are reminders of their glorious past and high standards everywhere at Stamford Bridge. Their legends are immortalised on the banners across the ground and such is their success over the past couple of decades, the fans expect European football here.

But it’s been a destabilising season. They’ve had four different managers on the touchline — first Thomas Tuchel, then Graham Potter, interim Bruno Saltor and now interim to the interim Frank Lampard. And in the first half, they looked nervous, tentative and unsure. Passes were misplaced, they were poor at retaining the ball in dangerous areas and they looked defensively uncertain. The five changes Lampard made saw Edouard Mendy return in goal and he was at fault for Forest’s opener as he misjudged a cross to allow Awoniyi to rise above Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile to head into an empty net. The frustration grew to the point the fans were quiet, until the half-time whistle as the boos rang out as they went in 1-0 behind.

How they must hope for some stability here over the summer, and the welcoming in of their new manager. There were shades of the Chelsea we’re more used to in the second half, with Sterling leading the line and they had chances to win this match as Forest defended with their all, but you feel there’s more change ahead before stability.

Prior to the match both ends of the ground paid tribute to Thiago Silva, the great Brazilian centre back who has been here since 2020. He may yet be off at the end of the season with Fluminese linked with a move for him. You feel it’s going to take more transition and upheaval before this group are back to their fearsome best.

2. Forest’s relegation battle continues

Before the match, the Nottingham Forest backroom staff were keeping one eye on the Leeds-Newcastle match and the other eye on their players warming up on the Stamford Bridge pitch. While Junior Firpo was walking off at Elland Road with his late red card, the staff congregated around Forest’s bench to see how Kieran Trippier‘s freekick would end up. As it played out, it finished 2-2, but it was a perfect illustration of the nerves and nail-biting of an end-of-season relegation battle.

Forest started the match two points above Leeds and one above Everton on 33 overall. They knew a win would give them one foot in the Premier League next term. And in a season where, like Chelsea, they have experienced a huge overhaul of players — Forest have made 31 signings this season — in the first half, Forest looked like far more of an organised outfit than the hosts.

Steve Cooper’s team played well in patches with captain Joe Worrall a commanding presence, Renan Lodi outstanding on the left, and Awoniyi clinical in front of goal. They did have chances to snatch a win, but finished defending their own line with Chelsea hammering away.

There were times this season where Forest looked doomed, and seven points from their last four matches has given them hope, but you feel they need a result from their last two matches to guarantee survival. They have Arsenal at home, and Crystal Palace away and while Mikel Arteta’s side are obviously a fiercely difficult task, Palace are also in the midst of their resurgence under Roy Hodgson. If they survive, then credit has to go to Cooper for managing to juggle all the new signings and building a core group to keep them safe.

3. Sterling shines in otherwise dismal team performance

Sterling provided a timely reminder of his class through his well-taken double against Forest. A week ago he was talking about how this campaign has been one of the “lowest points” of his career, but he is clearly determined to finish it on a high. He made his mark against Forest in both halves, and we saw signs of the Sterling we know, and also the one who has looked a little more tentative than usual this term. In the first half he had a great opportunity to grab an equaliser as he twisted and turned Joe Worrall in Forest’s box, but he waited too long to shoot to allow Worrall to make a decent block.

But in the second half he took both chances well. His first profited from a fortunate deflection off Ryan Yates‘ head — though Navas was already heading in the wrong direction — and his second was a wonderful piece of individual skill as he sat Felipe down before curling the shot past Navas. It was a highlight from another underwhelming overall team performances from Chelsea.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Raheem Sterling, FW, Chelsea: Took both of his goals brilliantly. His double Chelsea from further disappointment at home.

BEST: Taiwo Awoniyi, FW, Nottingham Forest: Clinical in front of goal. Took both his chances well to secure a key point.

BEST: Renan Lodi, DF, Nottingham Forest: Outstanding at left wing-back and provided a great assist for Awoniyi’s first.

WORST: Eduoard Mendy, GK, Chelsea: At fault for Forest’s opener and had a generally poor match.

WORST: Mateo Kovacic, MF, Chelsea: Poor 40 minutes from the midfielder until injury cut his match short. He was guilty of giving the ball away far too easily in the build up to Forest’s opener.

WORST: Danilo, MF, Nottingham Forest: Quiet game from the midfielder.

Highlights and notable moments

A leaping header by Awoniyi gave Forest the early lead at Stamford Bridge, spelling more problems for the Chelsea defense.

Sterling made sure Chelsea hung on in the match after he scored his second with a stunning strike.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Chelsea interim manager Frank Lampard on picking Mendy: “We’ve got two good goalkeepers. Eddie’s been training well, Kepa’s been playing well – to give Edu a game today was no problem. He’s the one we trust, so he started.”

On defending set pieces: “The long loopy throw is tough to defend against. When you know it’s coming, and they’re a bigger team than us, the threat of set pieces were the biggest threats today. You have to deal with it.”

On Sterling: “It’s important — small steps forward, he has credit in the bank as a regular goal scorer in the Premier League and country and to see him scoring was Raheem. I’m very happy for him. It’s what we need across the top end of the pitch. He’s done it and produced it again. You need to be killers at the top end of the pitch — at the moment we don’t have enough of that.”

On the Forest goal: “Goals when you give away when not conceding big changes, they can happen — you’re disappointed, but they can happen. We lost 45 minutes in the game, we had all the control and we weren’t doing what we set about to do before the game. You have to have speed in the last third of the game at the moment we’re too comfortable in getting to the top third and being slow. We need to have more shots, be more clinical and have more killers but at the moment, we haven’t got that. It has to be changed by the players and being effective in doing that.”

Nottingham Forest head coach Steve Cooper on the result: “It was a mix really, some disappointed guys in the dressing room and I like that, although we had to work hard today, we could’ve got a little bit more. We gave everything, we stuck to the plan, we showed good resilience from 2-1 down. There’s loads to take out of the game. But it feels like we’re giving away goals more easily than we’re scoring them.”

On long throws: “We’ve scored three from long throws. Until Chelsea made their changes, I thought we had quite a big height advantage today. The throw-in has become something that’s really important, we’ve scored from it a couple of times. It’s not about throwing it in there and seeing what happens, but it’s the strategy around it. There’s got to be a technique to the throw.”

On remaining fixtures: “We talk openly every day about the situation. I always put context around it. Everyone deals with situations in different ways. If that’s opening up conversations, then great, if it’s a bit more private, then that’s fine. We don’t have elephants in the room as that’s not the way that everybody likes to deal with it. When players talk to each other about it, that’s how you build more togetherness. We have to stick to what we believe in. We’re only looking forward.”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information research)

  • Raheem Sterling: 1st multi-goal game for Chelsea since Aug. 27 against Leicester City.

  • Taiwo Awoniyi has 4 goals in his last 2 PL games after scoring just 4 PL goals in his first 23 appearances this season.

  • Chelsea is on their first 6-game winless streak at home in Premier League play since going 12 straight in 1994-95.

Up next

Chelsea: The Blues face a tough run of matches to close out the season, taking on Manchester City next on May 21, followed by Manchester United on May 25 and Newcastle on May 28.

Nottingham Forest: As they continue their fight to avoid relegation, Forest face Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal next on May 20 followed by Crystal Palace on the last day of the season on May 28.