/Chelsea 1-1 Wolves: Eden Hazard strikes at the death to salvage a point for the Blues

Chelsea 1-1 Wolves: Eden Hazard strikes at the death to salvage a point for the Blues

late drama

The visitors nearly sealed a remarkable smash and grab victory before the Belgian’s stunning last-gasp equaliser

Eden Hazard came to Chelsea’s rescue with a late equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw at home to Wolves.

The Blues were stunned by Raul Jimenez’s opener after the visitors pulled off a classic smash and grab, scoring with their first touch inside the opposition box.

Hazard prevented an embarrassing defeat

Hazard prevented an embarrassing defeat

And it looked set to seal an astonishing victory after some heroic defending from Nuno Espirito Santo’s men, but they could do nothing to stop Hazard’s stunning strike in the second minute of stoppage time.

With time running out, the Belgian took matters into his own hands by beating his man and curling into the bottom corner from 18 yards.

Chelsea will still rue two dropped points in the race for the top four, following Spurs’ shock defeat to Southampton on Saturday.

Maurizio Sarri’s side are now four points behind their London rivals in the four-way battle for third and fourth place which includes Arsenal and Manchester United, albeit with a game in hand.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side had come from behind to beat the Blues at Molineux in December for the second Premier League loss of Sarri’s first season.

The seventh-placed visitors were seeking to become the first promoted team to do the Premier League double over Chelsea since Charlton in 2000-01.

Chelsea had looked like they had overcome their difficult spell which left Sarri clinging to his job.

The 60-year-old Italian made six changes to the side which beat Dynamo Kiev 3-0 last Thursday in the Europa League last-16 first leg, with Hazard, Gonzalo Higuain and N’Golo Kante restored to the starting line-up.

But the return of the big hitters did not yield instant results.

Chelsea’s ponderous possession penned Wolves back, but the visitors were not unduly alarmed.

The Blues had one shot on target in the first half, when Higuain’s effort was held by Rui Patricio at the near post.

Chelsea also had two hopeful handball appeals. The first was when Leander Dendoncker blocked a Pedro cross and the next followed the resulting corner, when Jimenez sliced into his own arm, which was in a natural position.

Jimenez put Wolves in front

Jimenez put Wolves in front

Former Chelsea strikers Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Didier Drogba, watching from absent owner Roman Abramovich’s box, did not look entertained by Sarri’s side and there were muted whistles and boos at half-time.

Hazard tried to spark Chelsea into life and was tripped by Matt Doherty. The initial contact was outside of the area and referee Michael Oliver blew for a free-kick despite the Belgian tumbling into the box. David Luiz’s set-piece was wasted.

Wolves scored with their first attack of the game 11 minutes into the second half.

Diogo Jota surged through a passive Chelsea defence and exchanged passes with Jimenez, whose poked shot deflected off Cesar Azpilicueta and bobbled in past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Chelsea sought an immediate reply. A Pedro shot from 25 yards was helped over by Patricio.

From the resulting corner, Jimenez’s defensive header at the near post took the ball beyond Higuain’s reach at the far post, as Chelsea were frustrated again.

Hazard’s finish was sublime

Hazard’s finish was sublime

Sarri had already sent on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Callum Hudson-Odoi, for Mateo Kovacic and Pedro, when he took off Jorginho and sent on Willian.

It was a departure from Sarri’s usual substitutions and was met with applause and a belated change in formation, to 4-4-2, once the messages were relayed.

But even with Hudson-Odoi and Willian on the flanks and Hazard up front alongside Higuain, Chelsea struggled to find openings.

Willian cut in from the left and was denied by Patricio before Hazard did similar in the second minute of stoppage time.

Hazard stepped by Ruben Neves and drilled in a swerving shot from the edge of the area to save Chelsea’s blushes.