Mauricio Pochettino lamented Chelsea’s lack of ruthlessness in front of goal after a flurry of missed chances contributed to a 2-1 defeat to Wolves at Molineux.
Mario Lemina headed the hosts into the lead early in the second half, rising to nod Pablo Sarabia’s corner into the far corner after the visiting defence had failed to make a serious attempt to clear the ball.
It was fair reward after a first half in which Gary O’Neil’s side held Chelsea off well, though they were helped significantly in their task by wayward finishing, most notably from Raheem Sterling who spurned a golden chance when he shot straight at Jose Sa instead of playing in Cole Palmer for a tap-in.
It was an inexplicable lapse in judgement from the England forward, who after a lively start cut a frustrated figure for the rest of the game, culminating in a yellow card for simulation in the final moments as he appealed for a penalty.
Chelsea had 16 shots on goal but tested Sa only infrequently as once again this season possession around the penalty area and decent sights of goal were not capitalised upon.
Matt Doherty added a second in the third minute of added time after Benoit Badiashile’s atrocious attempted clearance.
By the time substitute Christopher Nkunku headed his first Chelsea goal on his Premier League debut, there were few away fans who had remained inside Molineux to see it.
“We made a mistake, we need to blame ourselves,” said Pochettino. “That’s why we didn’t win today, because in the first half we had the chances to score. In the Premier League if you’re not clinical enough when you have chances, always you can concede.
“We didn’t compete in the first five minutes of the second half, we conceded too many corners. In these moments it’s about competing better and being stronger.
“I agree we’re our own enemy. I don’t want to take credit away from Wolves. They scored and they did their job. But in the first half we were the better side. And because of lack of capacity to score, we didn’t win the game.
Wolves had been tipped to struggle after O’Neil replaced former boss Julen Lopetegui days before the start of the season, with financial constraints placed on their transfer business by Financial Fair Play regulations over the summer.
They now sit level in the table on points with Chelsea boasting a near identical league record, despite Pochettino’s side having spent upwards of £1billion on recruitment during the last 18 months.
One of the summer’s big-money buys Nicolas Jackson, who cost £32million from Villarreal but has scored only seven times in the Premier League, was greeted with ironic cheers from visiting supporters when he was substituted, with frustration growing with his patchy, inconsistent form since arriving at Stamford Bridge.
“I didn’t hear the fans,” said Pochettino. “(But) always it’s about expectation, how you manage that. A striker that arrives at his age, a new league like the Premier League, it’s (important) not to blame him.
“The frustration from the fans you can accept. But we need to blame all together. Football is a collective sport and we cannot blame only one.
“But he is young, it’s his first season in the Premier League and the expectation is massive. There is pressure to play for Chelsea.”
Wolves boss O’Neil reflected on a game that his side deserved to win despite having to name an inexperienced bench with players unavailable.
“It was a tough day for us with a call from the doctor this morning around illnesses,” he said. “I had to call up some young lads last minute to make up the squad.
“Going against what Chelsea had, especially late on in the game, I thought it might have been tricky for us once we started to tire.
“But the lads manage to produce another fantastic performance here in front of the home fans and we deserved the win really.”