Serge Aurier stunned Chelsea with a clinical equaliser as Premier League strugglers Nottingham Forest secured a 1-1 draw at the City Ground.
A frenetic New Year’s Day game saw Raheem Sterling fire Chelsea into a 16th-minute lead, but Forest had several good chances and hit the crossbar before Aurier pulled them level just after the hour.
Chelsea had lost their last three games on their travels, so they at least avoided a fourth successive defeat away from Stamford Bridge.
However, the point leaves them seven points behind fourth-placed Manchester United as head coach Graham Potter battles to put the Blues back in the hunt for a Champions League place.
3 – Serge Aurier and Willy Boly are the third Ivorian pair to combine for a Premier League goal, after Didier Drogba and Salomon Kalou, and Yaya Touré and Wilfried Bony. Éléphants. pic.twitter.com/1reB1Xu8CL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 1, 2023
The best early chance went to Forest in the 10th minute when Brennan Johnson ran in behind the Chelsea defence, forcing Kepa Arrizabalaga to make a sharp save before the goalkeeper gathered a half-hit follow-up attempt.
Yet Chelsea took the lead when Christian Pulisic’s cross from the left was looped up against his own crossbar by defender Willy Boly, under pressure from Kai Havertz, with the ball bouncing out for Sterling to drive in from five yards.
Forest squandered another good opportunity early in the second half when Johnson elected to shoot from a narrowing angle rather than centre to an unmarked Taiwo Awoniyi, who was furious there was no pass.
They went even closer in the 55th minute when Morgan Gibbs-White sent an 18-yard drive crashing against the underside of the bar, but had their reward eight minutes later.
Former Tottenham right-back Aurier was an unlikely hero and his finish was excellent after a scramble on the edge of the six-yard box, controlling the ball with his chest when Boly headed to his fellow Ivorian before rifling powerfully past Kepa.
Substitute Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed a late chance to win it for Chelsea, who cannot afford to be dropping points against teams battling to avoid relegation.
What does it mean? Blues make another slow start to new year
This was Forest’s first home game against Chelsea since a 3-1 league defeat in February 1999, during a relegation season for the East Midlands side. They are scrapping to avoid the same fate this time around, having made a long-awaited return to the top flight.
The result means Chelsea have not won their first league game for seven consecutive calendar years (D5 L2). It is the club’s longest winless run in their year-opening league game since a streak of 10 games from 1929 to 1938.
Sterling brings up a half-century
Sterling’s goal was the England forward’s 50th away from home in his Premier League career. It also meant he has been directly involved in 13 goals in his last 13 Premier League appearances against promoted sides (10 goals, three assists).
Glaring lack of Chelsea end product
Chelsea attempted 674 passes, their highest total in a Premier League game this season. However, the London club managed only seven goal attempts and just two were on target. Forest had 12 shots, five of which hit the target.
The Blues have just 25 points from their 16 Premier League matches, their fewest at this stage since the 2015-16 season, when they only had 15 after 16 games.
Key Opta facts
– After winning their first three Premier League games under Potter, Chelsea have only been victorious one of their last seven.
– Forest avoided defeat in a Premier League game after conceding first for the first time this season. Before this match, they had lost seven matches after letting the first goal in by an aggregate score of 23-0.
– Since his Premier League debut in October 2020, no player has more yellow cards in the Premier League than Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher (23), who was cautioned after coming on in the second half.
Chelsea have a double-header against Manchester City coming up, with a league game on Thursday followed by an FA Cup third-round tie on Sunday. Forest, meanwhile, are back in action in top-flight action at Southampton on Wednesday.