In-form Taiwo Awoniyi has said Nottingham Forest have “two Cup finals” left to secure their Premier League status after his two goals earned him a valuable point against Chelsea.
Awoniyi, who scored twice in Monday’s 4-3 win over Southampton, edged recalled Blues keeper Edouard Mendy to head in Renan Lodi’s cross in the first half.
Raheem Sterling equalized after the break sweeping Trevoh Chalobah’s backhand, then seven minutes later the England striker turned inside Felipe and curled the ball past Keylor Navas.
But Frank Lampard’s side led for just four minutes as Nigeria striker Awoniyi returned Orel Mangala’s tricky lob to secure an impressive draw at Stamford Bridge.
It ended a run of seven league defeats for Steve Cooper’s men and leaves them three points above third-placed Leeds United with two games to play.
Forest have taken seven points from their last four games and are close to securing successive seasons in the top flight.
But Awoniyi, the first Forest player to score two goals in consecutive Premier League games since Bryan Roy in 1995, maintains there is still work to be done.
“We came here with spirit and solidarity and had a plan that worked. When they score two quick goals you feel bad, but we believed in ourselves and scored the point,” the 25-year-old said.
“We now have two finals to play, the next one is Arsenal and from there we will see what happens.”
Forest, who had taken just six away points from a possible 51 this season before the Chelsea game, will face the title-seeking Gunners at home next Saturday before traveling to Crystal Palace on the final day.
The draw leaves Chelsea, now winless in seven home games in all competitions, in 11th and with the prospect of playing three of the top four within a week – Manchester City, Manchester United and Newcastle United – to end their miserable season.
Chelsea need to find the right mix
Chelsea’s season has had little success for over a month now, since the terrible run of results at the end of Graham Potter’s reign and the start of Lampard’s goalkeeping tenure.
A midfield position for a side that have invested several million pounds over the last two transfer windows is a massive underachievement by any measure.
The draw against Forest was symptomatic of a chaotic season characterized by disjointed performances from a collection of very expensive players who have yet to be molded into a winning mix.
But while few of the £550m signings made under Todd Boehly have been unqualified successes, the Blues have unquestionably acquired a squad of serious talent with significant potential.
In a first season to be forgotten under new ownership, the Blues gave starts to 31 top-flight players, the most of any club, and made 128 changes to their starting line-up.
New signings may therefore seem like a reckless excess, but despite their spending, the team still has glaring weaknesses.
A true defensive midfielder from Argentine bandleader Enzo Fernandez would provide much-needed balance while a goalkeeper who imbues the defense with confidence rather than uncertainty would augment the stability at the back that was lacking every time Forest crossed. the ball.
The need for a goalscorer – Chelsea have scored just 36 times in the league this season – to add incisiveness was again demonstrated against Forest, as Lampard pointed out.
“We were too slow in the first half at the top end. Too lateral and safe. It’s intrinsic in us – lots of passes but no passes to break the lines and threaten,” he said.
“We need players who are eager and hungry to get into the box. Tactics are irrelevant if you don’t do it with pace. The difference between passing forwards and running forwards was there to see.
“It doesn’t matter a lot if you’re not clinical. Raheem was clinical, some players develop that a bit.”
Romelu Lukaku’s return from loan at Inter Milan could save Chelsea’s new manager another newcomer to bring in.
The identity of this new boss has yet to be confirmed, although former Tottenham Hotspur head coach Mauricio Pochettino has been heavily linked with the position.
What is clear is that the date must have the charisma and courage to manage such a large number of superstar players and strike the right chemistry between them.
Loyalty to Cooper is close to reaping rewards
The wisdom of Forest’s decision to stay with Cooper as all around them downstairs changed managers – sometimes more than once – will be determined by the outcome of their last two games.
Prior to the Chelsea game they had won two of their last three games – but that was after going 11 without a win, a period when the Forest board must have been tempted to make a change as the four clubs in below them had done so.
Cooper found a golden touch at just the right time. Forest have been dismal in London this season, losing the Premier League’s previous five visits to the capital by a combined 16-2.
But he reversed that form by frustrating the home side by recalling defender Joe Worrall in place of striker Brennan Johnson and moving to a back five.
His reward was real defensive resolve combined with an eagerness and ability – particularly through Awoniyi’s aerial prowess – to capitalize on the star hosts’ weak spots.
One more win, or even two draws, could well be enough to preserve their top-flight status and reward the Forest board for sticking with their man.
- Our coverage of your Premier League club is bigger and better than ever – here’s all you need to know to make sure you never miss a moment