Chelsea had the majority of the ball but Wolves threatened on the break as N'Golo Kante gave the ball away and a poor touch at a pivotal moment let down Diogo Jota.
But it was Chelsea who took the lead. Loftus-Cheek picked up the ball on the inside left channel, drove towards goal and hit a shot which Conor Coady nodded past his own goalkeeper to put the visitors 1-0 up. The goal was eventually awarded to Loftus-Cheek, as his positive impact continued.
Willian went close with a free kick before the break as Rui Patricio tipped his superb curling effort over the bar as Chelsea dominated the first half.
Wolves had no answer to wave after wave of Chelsea attacks, although they did improve slightly before the break as Raul Jimenez headed just over. Willian should have made it 2-0 in the first half but Ryan Bennett made a wonderful last-ditch tackle.
Wolverhampton Wanderers’ most likely path to not winning — and running away with — the 2017-18 Championship title required a defeat to second-place Bristol City on Saturday. Alas, in dramatic fashion, it wasn’t to be and their lead only ballooned larger.
Once again, the Championship is beginning to sound a lot like the PL.
Wolves extended their unbeaten run to 11 games (nine wins) by winning away to Bristol, 2-1, in the two sides’ top-of-the-table clash. The victory, which sent Nuno Espirito Santo’s side 10 points clear of now-second-place Derby County, was sealed by a 93rd-minute winner scored by Ryan Bennett after Wolves erased a 1-0 deficit courtesy of Barry Douglas’s 65th-minute equalizer. It was the first time Wolves had trailed a league opponent since losing to Queens Park Rangers on Oct. 28, the game which preceded their current unbeaten run.
In the Championship, the difference between chasing the second automatic-promotion place and the logjam of the playoff battle is roughly… oh, one or two bad results. Take, for example, the last eight days for Cardiff City.
The Bluebirds were riding high — second in the league, just four points back of Wolves, and unbeaten in six league games — before three straight defeats, including a disastrous showing against 22nd-place Bolton just before Christmas, erased their four-point lead in the race for second and tossed Neil Warnock’s side two spots down the league table, now 11 points back of the runaway leaders.
Outside of the current top-two, the league’s in-form team of the moment is eighth-place Preston North End, winners of five of their last nine and unbeaten during that stretch; Brentford have climbed all the way up to 10th after spending the first two months of the season stuck in the bottom half of the table, and the Bees are suddenly just four points off the playoff places and six clear of the bottom half.
For the full archive of our review content, just hit the link above. Now we are looking at the individual teams alphabetically and analyzing how they fared.
Here’s a look at the 10 teams from Newcastle United down to West Ham United.
Position: 18th High: Georginio Wijnaldum scored four goals against Norwich in a 6-2 win. Low: Being relegated for the second time in a decade. A club of this size?!? Star man: Andros Townsend — With respect to Chancel Mbemba, who also missed plenty of time, Townsend’s arrival in January reinvigorated a miserable attack. Coach: Steve McClaren proved that many who wander are lost, and Rafa Benitez would need to have almost zero missteps to save the club. He had one big one, a 0-0 draw against Villa. Grade: F
Position: 19th High: The 3-2 win over Newcastle on April 2 had the Canaries feeling ready for safety. Low: The 3-0 loss to Sunderland three weeks later all but ruined those plans. Star man: Robbie Brady — Their season could’ve been as poor as Aston Villa’s, honestly, had Norwich not bought the Hull City star. Coach: Alex Neil didn’t save the Canaries, but he came close despite a lack of top-end talent. Grade: D
Position: 6th High: Thumping Arsenal on Boxing Day or Spurs on the season’s penultimate match day. Low: Bouncing out of the Europa League at the hands of Midtjylland. Star man: Virgil Van Dijk — There were a lot of wonder workers at St. Mary’s this season, but the former Celtic center back was stout, strong and fearsome. Coach: Ronald Koeman was absolutely the right man to take over for Mauricio Pochettino, even if many of us scratched at our heads at the hiring last season. Grade: A
Position: 9th High: Beating Manchester United 2-0 on Boxing Day. Low: Allowing 12 goals over three-straight losses in April. Star man: Jack Butland — It’s no coincidence that Stoke’s turn in form was very close to coinciding with his season-ending injury. Coach: Mark Hughes‘ defense fell apart after a very promising smart. Injuries certainly hurt his chances, but better is needed to take the next step. Grade: B-
Position: 12th High: Battering West Ham and Liverpool in successive May fixtures. Low: Getting two points between Halloween and Dec. 20. Star man: Gylfi Sigurdsson — Andre Ayew was the new shiny toy, but Icelandic star Sigurdsson had plenty of big moments in lifting Swans out of its relegation-threatening funk. Coach: Garry Monk felt like a hard-luck sacking with Swans in the drop zone, but Francesco Guidolin’s work proved that a fresh take in the team room was all the talented Swans needed to thrive in the PL. Grade: C+
Position: 17th High: Beating up on miserable Everton to seal PL safety with a 3-0 win in May. Low: Going winless from Opening Day until October 25 Star man: Lamine Kone — Jermain Defoe caught fire and scored some massive goals, but Kone stabilized a very leaky back line. Coach: Big Sam Allardyce isn’t much of a tactician, but his work in the January transfer market kept the Black Cats up. Grade: C-
Position: 3rd High: Walking all over Manchester United 3-0 in a Top Four tilt on April 10. Low: Throwing away a 2-0 halftime lead and any remaining title chances in a messy, card-filled 2-2 draw at Chelsea in May. Star man: Harry Kane — Lots of worthwhile players here — Mousa Dembele is criminally underappreciated — but Kane is so much more than a finisher and took his game to new heights this season. Coach: Mauricio Pochettino should be lauded for a wonderful season, but fans will be licking their wounds after Arsenal passed them on the final day. Twenty-one straight seasons below their rivals. Woof. Grade: A-
Position: 13th High: Clobbering Liverpool 3-0 in December at Vicarage Road, or upsetting Arsenal in the FA Cup. Low: Losing 4-0 to that same Arsenal side two weeks later. Star man: Troy Deeney — For scoring and captaining the side, the big man gets the nod over electric striker Odion Ighalo and shotstopper Heurelho Gomes. Coach: Quique Sanchez Flores did a fantastic job, and is not coming back. Safety first, stability when? Grade: B-
West Bromwich Albion
Position: 14th High: Beating Arsenal on Nov. 21 at the Hawthorns. Low: Upset in the FA Cup by Reading. Star man: Johnny Evans — Slim pickings here, but Evans was huge given what Tony Pulis wants from his charges. Coach: Tony Pulis kept his side safe again… at the expense of entertainment. And it’s not like he doesn’t have talent! This is a personal beef of mine, but the Baggies supporters I know expect better football from their club. Grade: D
West Ham United
Position: 7th High: Winning a London Derby 2-0 at Arsenal on Opening Day was nice, but the final match at the Boleyn Ground was a night for the ages. The fact that it was a thrilling win over Manchester United helped, too. Low: May 7’s loss to Swansea City cost the Hammers dearly in the race for the Top Five. Star man: Dimitri Payet — Quite simply sensational. Coach: Slaven Bilic is that rare breed to make the transition from club playing hero to club managing hero. A near impeccable job from the granite-jawed Croatian, who showed West Ham that their “We can do better than Big Sam” theories were fair. Grade: A
With an hour on the clock the first goal of the game arrived as Sigurdsson was found inside the box by substitute Leroy Fer with a sublime pass and the Icelandic international coolly slotted home. 1-0 to the Swans.
Redmond clipped the post in the 89th minute after a shocking clearance from Wayne Routledge and Bamford went close, but the Swans held on for a vital three points with their manager Francesco Guidolin still not on the sidelines after suffering a chest infection.