Substitute players boost Chelsea to victory against Nottingham Forest, with assistance from Reece James and Raheem Sterling, according to JOE BERNSTEIN


Forest’s survival party was dampened by two late Chelsea goals, though the bigger picture is that Nuno Espirito Santo’s side’s Premier League safety was virtually guaranteed thanks to results elsewhere.

Defeats for Luton and Burnley left Forest effectively safe going into their game because of a vastly superior goal difference.

They needed just a point to make it mathematically guaranteed ahead of next Sunday’s final round of fixtures and they looked on course to take all three when they fought back from Mykhailo Mudryk’s opener to lead with goals from Willy Boly and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the former Chelsea winger.

Chasing a European place and having lost only one in 13 league games, Raheem Sterling’s solo strike levelled the match up after 80 minutes before another substitute, Reece James, on his comeback appearance set up Nicolas Jackson’s winner.

Chelsea dampened Nottingham Forest's survival party with two late goals to seal a 3-2 win

Chelsea dampened Nottingham Forest’s survival party with two late goals to seal a 3-2 win 

Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Jackson were on target to send Chelsea level with Newcastle

Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Jackson were on target to send Chelsea level with Newcastle 

It leaves Forest three points clear of 18th placed Luton with one game left, but their goal difference is 12 better, which takes the jeopardy out of their final match at Burnley, whose own relegation was confirmed by losing at Spurs.

On the concourses around the City Ground before kick off, every West Ham and Tottenham goal had been cheered by Forest fans. The only boos came when the Premier League anthem was played, Forest supporters still upset by the four-point deduction handed out for breaches of financial rules.

Chelsea temporarily spoilt the buoynant mood after eight minutes. Cole Palmer was once again the difference-maker with a slide-rule pass that split Forest’s defence wide open.

Mudryk’s pace saw him reach the ball with ease to plant a first-time finish past Matz Sels.

It was the Ukrainian’s first goal outside London, with five of his previous six coming at Stamford Bridge, the other at Fulham.

Unfortunately for the winger, he couldn’t enjoy the moment for very long, as weak defending cost his side.

Morgan Gibbs-White floated a free-kick into the danger area and Boly powered into the box ahead of Trevoh Chalobah to head the equaliser.

Chelsea’s bench looked stronger than it has done in months, with Sterling, James, Christopher Nkunku, Levi Colwill and Malo Gusto all fit enough to take their place after injuries.

This iteration of Chelsea is made of sterner stuff than earlier in the season, having lost only one in 13 league games

This iteration of Chelsea is made of sterner stuff than earlier in the season, having lost only one in 13 league games

Mauricio Pochettino's substitutions paid off, with Reece James assisting Jackson and Sterling also scoring

Mauricio Pochettino’s substitutions paid off, with Reece James assisting Jackson and Sterling also scoring 

Their one other clearcut opening before half-time saw Nicolas Jackson released by Palmer. The forward tried to place his finish past Sels, instead of lifting it over the on-rushing goalkeeper, and was foiled.

Forest remained a threat on the counter. Hudson-Odoi was clearly dragged back by Conor Gallagher as he bore down on goal. Although the home fans screamed for a red card, Tony Harrington, the referee, issued yellow, presumably unconvinced that the Forest midfielder had a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Forest started the second half brightly, too. Ola Aina robbed Moises Caceido and triggered a series of passes that ended with Ryan Yates firing just past the post with Dorde Petrovic, the Chelsea keeper, nowhere near the ball.

There were disbelieving looks when Gibbs-White then hit the post from three yards after Hudson-Odoi crossed and the rebound fell awkwardly to Chris Wood, who couldn’t keep his finish down.

Mauricio Pochettino, the Chelsea coach. decided changes needed to be made and Nkunku and Gusto were introduced before the hour, with Noni Madueke and Benoit Badiashele making way.

It almost paid dividends instantly when Palmer’s curled free-kick got the faintest of touches off Thiago Silva’s head and bounced off the post.

At the other end, Forest almost capitalised on a rare loose touch from Palmer. Hudson-Odoi broke to the other end of the pitch and curled a shot from the edge of the box on to the bar.

He finally got his moment of glory after 74 minutes when Gibbs-White set him up for an unerring finish.

Mauricio Pochettino should be credited for the changes he made to turn this match around

Mauricio Pochettino should be credited for the changes he made to turn this match around 

Nottingham Forest have been forced to wait to confirm mathematical survival, though they are all but secure

Nottingham Forest have been forced to wait to confirm mathematical survival, though they are all but secure 

Forest had been 2-1 up after coming back from Mykhailo Mudryk's opening goal

Forest had been 2-1 up after coming back from Mykhailo Mudryk’s opening goal 

It was bedlam inside the stadium as Forest supporters contemplated a third top-flight season in a row.

But Chelsea weren’t done. Sterling, who had been greeted to chants of ‘What a waste of money!’, rammed those taunts by tricking his way into the box and firing into the far corner.

By then, James had also entered the field for his first action of 2024. And the quality was immediately evident as he delivered a perfect cross to the far post that Jackson headed home.

Chelsea are up to joint sixth but Forest won’t be too upset by this defeat. Next week they should be able to celebrate survival officially, though the job is already done.

For chairman Evangelos Marinakis it would represent quite an end-of-season double with his ‘other’ club, Olympiakos, reaching their first European final.



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