Pulisic gave Chelsea a spark in flat draw at Brentford

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BRENTFORD, England — Brentford and Chelsea played to a scoreless draw on Wednesday.

With the result, Chelsea sit on 20 points in fourth place on the Premier League table — seven points off leaders Arsenal — while Brentford on 14 points break free of a tie for sole position of ninth on the table.

– Report: Brentford vs. Chelsea | Premier League table | Upcoming fixtures

ESPN’s James Olley has reaction and analysis from Brentford Community Stadium.

JUMP TO: Player ratings | Best/worst performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch quotes | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. Pulisic makes lively cameo as Potter’s rotation stalls

Chelsea manager Graham Potter shuffled the pack once again here with five more changes from Sunday’s 2-0 win at Aston Villa.

A degree of rotation is inevitable given the condensed schedule ahead of the World Cup, and few could argue with it given he remains unbeaten from seven matches in charge. But there was little fluidity about Chelsea until Christian Pulisic, Carney Chukwuemeka and Raheem Sterling came on.

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Pulisic was the liveliest of the trio, having a fierce 89th-minute shot beaten away by David Raya.

The U.S. men’s national team international has started just two games this season and is desperate for more opportunities. That has to start somewhere and after his goal against Wolves ten days ago, this was another step in the right direction on a journey that he will hope to continue in the next few weeks before heading to Qatar.

USMNT star Christian Pulisic has been vying for more playing time with Chelsea ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, and he proved he should get more chances with his showing in Brentford. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

2. Kepa follows Mendy’s example at Brentford

Chelsea needed Edouard Mendy to be at his very best in last season’s corresponding fixture, and Kepa Arrizabalaga delivered a similarly defiant performance to earn the Blues a 0-0 draw at Brentford on Wednesday.

This wasn’t quite the all-action display Mendy delivered as Ivan Toney and particularly Bryan Mbeumo were guilty of missing clear chances, but Kepa still produced a string of fine saves, especially in the first half when Brentford were at their best.

However, Mbeumo let them off the hook most obviously just five minutes into the second half when planting a free header from close range straight at a grateful Kepa. Nevertheless, Potter spoke glowingly before the game about the work Kepa had done to regain his place from Mendy after being largely sidelined under Thomas Tuchel.

The Spaniard, for his part, justified that praise once again by replicating his goalkeeping rival at the venue of one of his best performances, making five saves in total.

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, left, was the MVP for the visitors in a scoreless draw at Brentford on Wednesday. Cesar Azpilicueta and Kalidou Koulibaly, pictured, were solid as well. AP Photo/Alastair Grant

3. Broja finally gets his chance

Armando Broja has waited a long time for his full Chelsea debut.

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He first joined the Blues at the under-9s level, but after coming through the ranks and taking in loan spells at Vitesse Arnhem and Southampton, here was a chance to lead the Chelsea line for the first time on Wednesday. Until this visit to Brentford, he had made just 10 substitute appearances totalling 178 minutes.

In truth, he was largely starved of service as the Blues struggled for any fluidity. Broja was left to make moments out of nothing, such as Mateo Kovacic’s hopeful clipped ball over the Brentford defence, which he managed to beat Ben Mee to despite starting several yards adrift. Nothing came of it, however, and as Brentford continued to make the running, the 21-year-old was substituted just after the hour mark as Potter sought to reshuffle his attack.

There were enough flashes of promise to suggest Broja could make more of an impact but he remains a work in progress. There is little doubt Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will start against Manchester United in Chelsea’s next fixture on Saturday.

Player ratings

Brentford: Raya 7, Roerslev 7, Zanka 7, Mee 7, Pinnock 8, Henry 7, Onyeka 7, Janelt 7, Jensen 7, Mbeumo 7, Toney 6.

Subs: Baptiste 6, Wissa 6, Dasilva 6, Ghoddos 6.

Chelsea: Arrizabalaga 8, Azpilicueta 7, Chalobah 6, Koulibaly 6, Cucurella 6, Loftus-Cheek 6, Jorginho 7, Mount 6, Gallagher 5, Broja 7, Havertz 5.

Subs: Kovacic 7, Pulisic 7, Chukwuemeka 7, Sterling 6.

Best and worst performers

BEST: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea

He kept Chelsea in it early on and maintained his good personal run of form.

WORST: Kai Havertz, Chelsea

He was lucky to survive Potter’s triple substitution on the hour mark and failed to link the midfield to Broja.

Highlights and notable moments

Well, let’s be honest: this match wasn’t chock full of highlights. It ended 0-0, and although both goalkeepers had to make five saves each, many of the saves were fairly routine.

A moment of intrigue did arrive in deep stoppage time, however. Chelsea appealed for a penalty when the ball appeared to hit the hand of Brentford defender Ethan Pinnock in the box.

The play was reviewed by VAR, but waved off. You can judge yourself:

Should Chelsea have gotten a penalty at the end of the match?#BRECHE pic.twitter.com/JKqyRVdBzn

— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) October 19, 2022

After the match: What the players and managers said

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga: “We’re not happy. They had chances and we had chances and in the last 15 minutes we were playing in their box and we had clear opportunities and should score something. The feeling is that we have dropped two points and we wanted three points to be fighting with the top clubs.”

Chelsea manager Graham Potter: “We pushed and pushed and gave it everything. It’s not easy with the schedule but we put the effort in and I’m proud of them — it’s a hard-earned point.”

Brentford manager Thomas Frank: “The day we got promoted was the day they won the Champions League title with pretty much the same players. They are one of the biggest clubs in the world and we completely fairly can say if there was a winner, it should have been us.”

Up next

Brentford: The Bees head to Aston Villa for a Premier League fixture on Sunday, Oct. 23 at 9 a.m. ET. Then Brentford hosts Wolves the following Saturday, Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. ET.

Chelsea: The Blues host Manchester United in Premier League action on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 12:30 p.m. ET. Then Chelsea shift focus to the UEFA Champions League when they head to Austria to face FC Salzburg on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 12:45 p.m. ET.