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Nottingham Forest 2-3 Chelsea: Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Jackson boost Blues’ chances of European football

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Chelsea boosted their chances of European football next season in dramatic fashion as they scored twice in two minutes to secure a late 3-2 win at Nottingham Forest, who are still all-but safe from relegation.

Mauricio Pochettino’s Blues thought they were heading to defeat as former player Callum Hudson-Odoi curled in a lovely finish to put Forest 2-1 up with 10 minutes left – after Willy Boly cancelled out Mykhailo Mudryk’s strike in the opening 15 minutes – but back came Chelsea with two goals out of the blue.

Raheem Sterling sparked the comeback with a strike from the edge of the box, before fellow substitute Reece James set up Nicolas Jackson to head home from close range.

There could have been more drama as both teams hit the woodwork four times in a frantic second half, while Chris Wood produced one of the misses of the season with the scores at 1-1, blazing over from two yards out.

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Chris Wood skies golden chance after Morgan Gibbs-White hits post for Nottingham Forest against Chelsea

The result moves Chelsea level on points with sixth-placed Newcastle and three points clear of Manchester United with a vastly superior goal difference. European slots could go far as down as seventh place come the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Forest remain three points above Luton in the final relegation spot with one game left – but the Hatters would need to overturn a goal difference swing of 12 on the final day, meaning Nuno Espirito Santo’s side can plan for top-flight football next season.

Player ratings

Nottingham Forest: Sels (6); Montiel (6), Boly (7), Niakhate (6), Murillo (6), Aina (6); Yates (7), Danilo (6), Gibbs-White (7); Hudson-Odoi (8), Wood (5)

Subs: Toffolo (6), Elanga (6), Dominguez (n/a), Awoniyi (n/a)

Chelsea: Petrovic (6); Chalobah (6), Silva (6), Badiashile (6), Cucurella (7); Caicedo (7), Gallagher (6), Palmer (8); Madueke (6), Jackson (7), Mudryk (7)

Subs: Gusto (6), Nkunku (6), Sterling (7), James (7)

Player of the match: Cole Palmer (Chelsea)

WATCH: A dramatic ending at the City Ground!

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Callum Hudson-Odoi curls Nottingham Forest in front against his former club Chelsea

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Raheem Sterling levels for Chelsea with another fine goal

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Nicolas Jackson surely wins in for Chelsea at the death!

How Forest, then Chelsea turned it around

With Forest’s safety all-but secured after defeats earlier in the day to Luton and Burnley, the City Gound was in a raucous mood – and their team nearly responded as Chris Wood tried to lob Djorde Petrovic after being played in over the top, but the Chelsea goalkeeper was equal to the effort.

Team news

  • Nottingham Forest made one change from last week’s win over Sheffield United, dropping Anthony Elanga to the bench for Moussa Niakhate.
  • Chelsea named an unchanged side from the one who beat West Ham 5-0, but named Reece James on the bench for the first time in 2024.

Forest had the better of the opening exchanges but Chelsea struck through a moment of quality from Cole Palmer, who slipped Mudryk into the box and the Ukrainian winger made no mistake, tucking the ball past Mats Sels.

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Mykhailo Mudryk slots home from a perfect Cole Palmer pass to give Chelsea the lead at Nottingham Forest

A frantic opening 15 minutes led to a Forest equaliser as Boly was found by Morgan Gibbs-White from a free-kick and the defender’s header deflected in off Gallagher. VAR checked for an offside against Boly, but eventually gave the goal.

Forest nearly turned it round but Wood’s header was cleared off the line by Badiashile, before the New Zealand striker also nodded over after Petrovic palmed a corner straight into his path.

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Unmarked Willy Boly heads Nottingham Forest level against Chelsea

Then came a big chance for Nicolas Jackson, with Palmer playing another brilliant ball into his path but Sels was equal to the close-range strike his near post. Forest nearly took a half-time lead themselves but Badiashile cleared off the line from another Boly header.

Forest came out of the blocks firing after half-time as Ryan Yates struck the foot of the post from the edge of the box, before Palmer volleyed wide from close-range at the other end.

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Ryan Yates inches from giving Nottingham Forest lead against Chelsea

The home side then came within inches of levelling as Gibbs-White headed onto the post from Hudson-Odoi’s cross, with the rebound falling to Wood with the goal gaping. He inexplicably fired over the crossbar with Petrovic stranded.

Thiago Silva then hit the woodwork himself as he flicked on Palmer’s free-kick, before Hudson-Odoi repeated the feat by striking the bar from distance.

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Thiago Silva heads against the post from Cole Palmer free-kick

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Callum Hudson-Odoi crashes sublime curler against crossbar

The former Chelsea winger made it count moments later as he stood up substitute Malo Gusto before curling past Petrovic and into the far corner.

It looked like Forest would be sealing survival with that goal but Chelsea’s substitute had something to say about it. Sterling scored almost a copy of Hudson-Odoi’s strike as he found the far corner from the edge of the box.

Then came a shock winner as James was released down the right and he kept the ball in play to hang a cross up for Jackson, who couldn’t miss this time at the far post.

Chelsea could have added to the lead but Gusto was denied a result-sealing fourth by a last-ditch tackle by Gibbs-White, but both sides came off satisfied with the day’s events despite the contrasting results.

Pochettino: Chelsea are being more mature

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Mauricio Pochettino is disappointed that the season is coming to an end as his Chelsea side have come into form and wants this team to compete for big things in the future.

Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino to Sky Sports:

“The way we always believe until the end, in football – it’s always to fight and find your best. I’ve seen the players from the bench making a big impact, I’m so happy to recover. I’m sorry it’s only two games to go until the end of the season, but it’s good for the team to finish the season with the hope to be strong and start really well the new season.

“I think we are honest, we were punished for the first 10 games. Our performances were good but not clinical in front of the goal. All the data showed we were in a different position. But we were not effective. But if we count since the victory of Tottenham, that’s 25 or 26 games, we are in the top four or five. But the problem is that the first 10 games, we didn’t start well.

“We have struggled with these opponents. When we play opponents against teams like Tottenham and Liverpool, we don’t feel the pressure and play with more freedom. This young team need these moments to realise how we need to compete.

“It’s not about playing well, but you need to be available and find your own motivation to chase players who are not big names. But it’s about to be more mature and capacity to believe and never give up. The last few months, the team is showing this capacity to be strong in our mind and be more mature. That is so important for the future.

“To clarify, and I don’t need to clarify, if the owners are happy with my job and our job then we can continue. I am always a coach that is thinking long-term. I still have one year on my contract, I am thinking to be here. There’s nothing wrong.”

Nuno: Forest will learn from their lessons

Nottingham Forest manager Nuno Espirito Santo to Sky Sports:

“We did a good game, good moments, chances. After the hard work of turning the result, we had bad defending, we were not in the right positions. The chances we created and the momentum we had, the hard work of the boys should have had another prize.

“In the second half, we were dominant, controlling the game and had the game on the front foot. We allowed Chelsea back in, but the chances we had, we should have finished the game.

“We had moments where we did really well, but a lot of things repeated themselves both in this game and others. Lessons to learn definitely.

“We will prepare the [Burnley] game as we always do, with the same dedication and commitment. IT’s important to finish this season on a high.

“Definitely we have a lot of things to learn. They took four points away from us. That means a lot in this Premier League table, everyone knows how hard it is to get points. The club has lessons to make, because the club has the foundation to do much better.”

Analysis: Are Chelsea actually showing maturity?

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Jamie Redknapp says Mauricio Pochettino thinks he’ll be Chelsea manager next season and insists he’s the right man for the job.

For Chelsea, there have been too many “back to square ones”. A 4-1 loss to Liverpool followed three straight league wins. Last month, they backed up a 6-0 win over Everton with a 5-0 loss to Arsenal.

The Blues looked set for another setback when Callum Hudson-Odoi put Nottingham Forest 2-1 up. The player they sold for £5m was overshadowing the likes of Raheem Sterling and Mykahilo Mudryk, who were deemed “what a waste of money” by the home fans as Forest took the lead.

But as Mauricio Pochettino said after the game: “The last few months, the team is showing this capacity to be strong in our mind and be more mature.”

The manner which Chelsea struck back was a strong response to the narratives they have faced all season.

Sterling and Nicolas Jackson can turn up when needed. Reece James can deliver despite his injuries. Moises Caicedo – who had an assist and played a stunning pass for James to set up Jackson’s winner – looks somewhat like a £115m player.

If Pochettino had 20 more games this season, who knows where they would be? In fact, who knows where they’re going?

What’s next?

The Premier League’s final day will take place on Sunday May 19 with all games kicking off at 4pm. Nottingham Forest head to Burnley, while Chelsea host Bournemouth.

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