Chelsea have qualified for the Champions League despite losing 2-1 to Aston Villa on the final day of the Premier League season which also saw Leicester City beaten by Tottenham Hotspur in the race for European places.
Bertrand Traore and Anwar El Ghazi put Villa two goals ahead in the first and second half respectively to condemn the Blues to defeat in the last game of the domestic league season.
Thomas Tuchel’s men, however, got a consolation goal in the 70th minute of the encounter, thanks to a Ben Chilwell effort.
Despite the loss, the 2012 Champions League winners, made it to the top four in England and qualified for next season’s campaign in Europe’s elite competition.
This was only possible after Leicester City blew up the chance of qualifying for the competition following a 4-2 loss to London side, Tottenham.
It's all Chelsea now as we push for a late equaliser!
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) May 23, 2021
An own goal from Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel was followed by two late Gareth Bale strikes, condemning the Foxes to a 4-2 loss as Chelsea received an unexpected favour from bitter London rivals Tottenham.
That Harry Kane, linked with a close-season move to Chelsea after declaring his desire to quit Tottenham, was also on the scoresheet at the King Power Stadium was an added layer of irony.
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta was sent off in the final minute after clashing with Jack Grealish.
But the Blues finished one point above fifth-placed Leicester, illustrating the slender margins at play in a pulsating conclusion to the top four race.
It was a huge escape for Chelsea as they enjoyed a significant measure of revenge for their FA Cup final defeat against the Foxes last weekend.
They can now concentrate on Saturday’s Champions League final against Manchester City without the extra pressure of knowing they have to win in Porto to qualify for next season’s tournament.
But Tuchel has plenty of work to do to get Chelsea in shape for their first Champions League showpiece since 2012 after they were beaten for the third time in their last four games in all competitions.
Adding to Tuchel’s problems, Edouard Mendy may be a doubt for the final after Chelsea’s keeper was unable to play the second half, having collided with the woodwork in a failed attempt to keep out Traore’s goal.
Once again, Timo Werner was unable to provide a spark up front and the Chelsea striker should have done better than head across goal from Azpilicueta’s cut-back in the early stages.
Mason Mount deservedly won Chelsea’s player of the year award after a superb season.
But the England midfielder wasted a golden opportunity to open the scoring when he blazed over from Azpilicueta’s cross.
Chelsea were made to pay for their profligacy when Villa took the lead with a clever corner routine in the 43rd minute.
Traore made a perfectly-timed run to meet Matt Targett’s low delivery and, with Chelsea’s defenders looking elsewhere, the unmarked winger hit a scuffed shot that looped into the top corner via the crossbar.
Tuchel had said he would not check to see how Liverpool and Leicester were faring until half-time.
By the time Tuchel returned to the dressing room at the break, Liverpool were winning 1-0, while Leicester were level at 1-1, keeping Chelsea in the top four at that point.
But news quickly filtered through that Jamie Vardy had put Leicester ahead early in the second half, leaving Chelsea in peril.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jorginho conceded a 52nd minute penalty when he caught Traore on the foot.
VAR reviewed the incident but there was no reprieve for shell-shocked Chelsea as El Ghazi stroked home the spot-kick.
Chilwell gave Chelsea a glimmer of hope when the left-back met Christian Pulisic’s cross with a close-range finish in the 70th minute.
That set the stage for a remarkable finale as the focus turned to the King Power, where Tottenham’s late goal spree sparked jubilant cheers from the Chelsea bench and a relieved smile from Tuchel.