Cesar Azpilicueta was two yards offside when he headed home on 84 minutes and Cardiff’s indignity was compounded when Antonio Rudiger was then not dismissed for hauling down substitute Kenneth Zahore as he ran through on goal. All told, a desperate and deeply unworthy escape from ignominy against a Cardiff side now deep in relegation mire.
Chelsea went into this match four points behind fourth placed Manchester United, in desperate need of energy and vigour for a final push to reclaim Champions League status, and yet Maurizio Sarri decided, in his infinite wisdom, to leave Eden Hazard and N’golo Kante on the bench.
The breakthrough came precisely 49 seconds into the second half and Gunnarson was the instigator. The Icelander launched a long throw which David Luiz cleared straight back to him, allowing possession to be recycled to Artur, whose clipped ball from the right was volleyed sharply past Kepa Arrizabalaga by Victor Camarasa – unchallenged by any of the four Chelsea players within a few yards of him.
Hazard was on the field in place of Pedro within seven minutes and rapidly revealed the folly of excluding him though a breakthrough looked beyond Sarri’s side. Willian briefly threatened again, finding space on the left side of the Cardiff box, but fired a low shot a few inches wide. The substitutes kept coming – Ruben Loftus-Cheek for Pedro, Olivier Giroud for the deeply ineffectual Higuain.
Cardiff’s Premier League future required calm heads, though the home side could not regroup as Chelsea pushed for the points. Willian put in another fine cross, Giroud occupied the central defenders and Loftus-Cheek got ahead of full-back Lee Peltier to direct a header past Neil Etheridge.
When it was over Chelsea’s supporters summoned cheers, though this is the afternoon drove another nail into Sarri’s future at Chelsea. ‘You don’t know what you’re doing,’ they’d sung in the depths of it all. ‘We want Sarri out.’