A poor Chelsea performance led to the club’s long-standing unbeaten run ending as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s volley gave Swansea a well-earned victory.
The former Tottenham midfielder struck home from the edge of the box after Matt Miazga could only divert Jefferson Montero’s cross back into the danger zone, and but for several excellent saves from Asmir Begovic, it might have been worse for Guus Hiddink’s men.
It is a first Premier League defeat of 2016 for Chelsea, who should have levelled on the brink of half-time but Alexandre Pato inexplicably shot wide from six yards, whilst the same player then missed with a back-heeled finish in the second half.
But Chelsea failed to seriously test a stubborn Swansea City defence and Lukas Fabianski was virtually unemployed throughout as an experimental Blues eleven was soundly beaten.
This is Hiddink’s first defeat in the Premier League in his second spell in charge, and only his second in total, but this was a lacklustre performance that ranks right up there with the most disappointing of Chelsea performances this season.
In not only ending a four-month-long unbeaten run, this defeat is the first the Blues have experienced against Swansea in the Premier League in ten matches, and the loss here all but ends any remaining hopes of finishing in a Europa League position.
That may well work out better in the long run for incoming manager Antonio Conte, who will take some solace from another good performance from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, but less so from seeing the Blues concede for the 42nd time this season – a total already ten more than in the entirety of last season – with six games still to play.
Yet it is not so much Chelsea’s inability to defend that will worry the Italian as much as their insipid attacking options, and the return of both Diego Costa and Willian next week – by far and away Chelsea’s stand-out performers this season – will at least give the side more of a cutting edge up front.
Despite mustering over 60% of the possession, Chelsea were able to produce only two tame efforts on target, and just eight shots overall in the absence of their star attackers, though the Blues can feel hard done by after Pato was incorrectly adjudged to have handled after showing great strength and composure to slot the ball home in the second half.
But the game was largely played in the manner of a pre-season testimonial match, and Chelsea never looked like demonstrating the guile or intensity required to break down the stubborn Welsh club, who deservedly withstood late pressure to wrap up a memorable win that all but ensures their Premier League status.