Wolves 0 Chelsea 0: Tuchel's side suffer another blow in title race with statement after naming just four outfield subs

THIS was the fixture Chelsea begged to be binned – only for their pleas to be rejected by the Premier League.

Unfortunately for Thomas Tuchel's men, his title-chasers hit an even bigger brick wall in the shape of Wolves watertight defence.

Deprived of Romelu Lukaku – one of many Chelsea stars forced to isolate due to Covid regulations – Chelsea looked toothless in only their second top flight blank of the season to slip six-points behind title pacesetters Manchester City. 

In fact, stand-in striker Christian Pulisic must have felt as if he was isolating too as he ploughed a lonely furrow up front.

In a dour game Thiago Silva and Conor Coady excelled as Wolves showed why only City and Liverpool can boast a better defensive record than them this season.

The fog surrounding the Premier League's decision-making over who can and can't play when Covid strikes appeared to have made it all the way to Molineux.

Because the closer we got to kick-off at 2pm the thicker the mist became as the fog rolled in to provide a good old-fashioned pea-souper.

We've all heard about rain-dances – maybe Chelsea had hired someone to perform a fog-dance to have the last laugh on the Premier League Board.

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What was crystal clear was the threadbare nature of Tuchel's bench which underlined his argument his side's resources had been stretched to breaking point with seven Covid related absentees.

The German could only muster six substitutes to Wolves' eight – and two of those were goalkeepers.

However there was nothing makeshift about Tuchel's starting XI which most managers would have given their right arm for.

Although he was without Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Jorginho, Tuchel was able to welcome back N'Golo Kante who partnered Trevoh Chalobah in his engine room.

Nevertheless it was in form Wolves who grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck to carve out by far the better of the first half chances.

They forced a couple of early corners after Daniel Podence had seen his 22 yard potshot deflect off Thiago Silva, both of which Chelsea expertly mopped up.

However the visitors had a narrow escape after 15 minutes when Wolves believed they had taken an early lead.

Evergreen midfielder Joao Moutinho surged deep into Chelsea territory before feeding Marcal and the Brazilian wing-back swept in a teasing low cross fron the left flank.

Returning striker Raul Jimenez missed the ball at the front post but his livewire sidekick Daniel Podence pounced at the back stick to angle his shot beyond Mendy.

But the Portuguese hitman's celebrations were cut short by farside assistant ref Nick Hopton who belatedly raised his flag after a 28 second delay.

VAR proved he was right because, although Jimenez never made contact with the ball, he had clearly attempted to shoot and missed and was therefore extremely active.

Wolves fans howled at the injustice however and their mood darkened still further seven minutes later when they felt they were wronged again by officialdom.

Goalie Jose Sa smothered another feeble Chelsea attack and boomed an early clearance out towards Podence.

N'Golo Kante read the danger but failed to read the flight of the ball as expertly and he appeared to use an arm to tame it.

Wolves fans screamed for a red card, accusing Kante of denying Podence a clear goalscoring opportunity, as the speed-merchant would have been clear on goal.

However ref David Coote didn't give a hoot for the protests from Wolves' bench and VAR never got involved to suggest the official hadn't made a clear and obvious error.

Chelsea were struggling to cope with the pace of Wolves counter-attacks and their frustrations bubbled over with a couple of rapid bookings.

Chalobah was yellow-carded for a lunging tackle which left Jimenez in a heap.

Then Antonio Rudiger was similarly punished for flashing his studs at the Mexican striker, even though he used them to win the ball.

However there was far less bite about Chelsea's attack where Pulisic, backed up by Mason Mount, had failed to lay a glove on the Wolves defence.

In fact the home side could and should have gone in at half-time with a lead, only for Leo Dendoncker to fluff his lines.

Podence delivered a deep cross and Marcos Alonso lost track of the big Belgian who stole in on his blindside.

But with the goal at his mercy, Dendoncker – who comes from a family of pig-farmers – made a pig’s ear of his finish, heading weakly at Mendy.

A first-half knock forced Chalobah off at half-time and Tuchel turned to much-maligned midfielder Saul Niguez – booed on his last appearance – to try and win over his many critics.

That actually coincided with a marked improvement from the visitors who came out determined to take the game to Wolves after the break.

Romain Saiss did well to desperately hack a wicked low Mason Mount delivery out for a corner.

Then Alonso smacked a shot off Sa's near post but was clearly offside when Ziyech sent him clear of the Wolves defence.

Shortly afterwards Ziyech limped off to become Tuchel's latest injury concern.

The fact he had little option but to replace him with Mateo Kovacic summed up his frustrations as the Croatian had only returned to training on Friday after an 11-game absence.

The rust soon became evident when he dribbled the ball in front of his own goal late on before flipped the ball straight to Wolves 

Chelsea did carve out one glorious chance when Kante and Alonso combined to spring Pulisic free but Jose Sa managed to get a glove to the American's clipped shot to deny Chelsea a late winner.

In reality this game always seemed destined to end in a stalemate from a long way out.

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