LONDON – Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard rescued Chelsea on Sunday with his 1-1 late equalizer against visiting Wolverhampton in a Premier League matchday-30 contest held at Stamford Bridge.
With the draw, Chelsea retained the sixth spot in the standings, with 57 points, with a match in hand against Brighton and Hove Albion, corresponding to matchday-27, which was postponed due to the EFL Cup final that the London side lost on a penalty shootout to Manchester City.
The Wolves, meanwhile, stayed in seventh place in the standings, with 44 points.
After a scoreless first half, Mexican striker Raul Jimenez opened the scoring for the Wolves 11 minutes after the break, following a counter-attack in which Portuguese forward Diogo Jota teamed up with the Mexican.
Jota set Jimenez up for a one-on-one situation against Chelsea Spanish goalie Kepa Arrizabalaga, and the Mexican’s right-footed shot from inside the area ricocheted off Blues defender Cezar Azpilicueta into the back of the net.
Jimenez’s effort was the only shot by Wolves players during the match, which was completely dominated by the Blues.
This was the third goal that both Jota and Jimenez have been directly involved in after teaming up in the 2-0 win over Cardiff City in the club’s previous Premier League match.
Although Chelsea controlled the ball for most of the match, the club was unable to create clear scoring chances, while Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain, who started Sunday’s duel, was neutralized.
Higuain did not take the field in his side’s 3-0 victory over Ukraine’s Dynamo Kyiv in the first leg of the Europa League last-16 on Thursday, while many players were included in both matches’ starting lineups, which probably affected the team’s performance against the Wolves.
In the final minutes, Hazard had an outstanding long-range right-footed shot that went past Wolves keeper Rui Patricio, of Portugal, for his 50th league tally at Stamford Bridge, securing a point for the Blues.
The tie, which came with just eight matches to go, could hurt Chlesea’s hopes of finishing the season in the top four, the qualifying spots for the UEFA Champions League next season, as fourth-place Manchester United, with 58 points, plays fifth-place Arsenal, which has 57 points.
Chelsea, the 2016-2017 winner, finished the 2017-2018 PL season in fifth place behind champion Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool, respectively, to qualify for the Europa League.