MAURIZIO SARRI’s bold gamble blew up in his face as sorry Chelsea were thrown to the ravenous Wolves.
The Blues boss rested up four of his key players with one eye on Saturday’s crucial home game against Manchester City.
Reuters10 Ruben Loftus-Cheek scored but it wasn't enough to prevent Chelsea from losing to Wolves
Reuters10 Raul Jimenez scored as Wolves won 2-1 at home
But now he he finds himself ten points behind the Premier League leaders and with their faint title hopes in tatters.
And instead of maintaining the pressure on the top two, Chelsea are suddenly sweating over their place in the top four after failing to deal with this Molineux monstering.
They looked to have the game well under control when they went ahead with Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s deflected 19th minute goal.
But they were unable to withstand a full-blooded Wolves fightback after the break and succumbed to two goals in the space of four minutes from Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota.
Getty Images10 Diogo Jota also got on the scoresheet as Wolves completed a stunning turnaround
Reuters10 It was a miserable night in the Midlands for Maurizio Sarri
It ended a miserable run of one point from six games for Nuno Espirito Santo’s team.
And it made a nonsense of suggestions that the Premier League newcomers had been found out at the highest level.
Wondering where his next win is coming from is a totally new experience for Nuno.
Having stuck doggedly with more or less the same team all season, he decided that a shake-up was needed and made four changes to the team beaten at Cardiff last Friday.
Getty Images10 Chelsea got off to a flyer when Loftus-Cheek scored just minutes into the game
Reuters10 Jimenez equalised for Wolves in the second half
That meant a first Premier League start for 18-year-old Morgan Gibbs-White, the prince of the Black Country who is already being tipped for big things by the Molineux regulars.
Chelsea boss Sarri also gave his team a spin through the rotator, but there was no rest for the irresistible Eden Hazard, who was once again in the thick of the action right from the start.
The Belgian playmaker was a constant menace for Wolves’ bewildered defenders, testing keeper Rui Patricio with an early low shot before drawing a couple of fouls in dangerous positions.
And it was Hazard’s ball inside which gave Loftus-Cheek the time and space to try his luck from distance for Chelsea’s breakthrough goal.
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Patricio appeared to have the 19th minute effort covered until Conor Coady stuck his head in to block the shot but only succeeded in diverting it past his own keeper.
Loftus-Cheek has been a frustrated spectator for most of the season since returning from Russia in the summer.
For while England boss Gareth Southgate has no doubts about the young forward’s ability, Sarri is not quite so sure.
But the sceptical Italian is gradually being won over by the young powerhouse who has been dreaming of making it big in a Chelsea shirt ever since he joined the club as an eight-year-old schoolboy.
PA:Press Association10 Jota netted what proved to be the decisive goal just moments later
Getty Images10 Eden Hazard was far from his best on a cold night
Loftus-Cheek is still mulling over the possibility of asking to go out on loan in January to get more game time.
He certainly won’t be short of offers after his successful spell at Crystal Palace last season, with a host of clubs currently queuing up for his services.
Yet those plans have been put on hold after he was finally handed his first Premier League start for Chelsea since April 2016.
Sarri is still not convinced about RLC’s defensive contribution, but he can have no doubts about the player’s attacking efforts after his sixth goal in his last seven appearances.