replied for Chelsea either side of Cesc Fabregas’ sending-off for a second booking in the 81st minute.
“After the red card, we lost our heads,” said Conte, who felt Cahill’s red card changed the game. Two years ago, Chelsea drew with Swansea 2-2 at home in the first match of its league title defence and quickly unravelled. Manager Jose Mourinho lasted only 11 more league games. Last year, then-champion Leicester lost at Hull 2-1 in its first match and its fortunes improved only after manager Claudio Ranieri was fired.
There’s a chance it could get worse before it gets better for the current Chelsea team. Cahill, the captain, and Fabregas join a lengthy absentee list for next weekend’s away match at Tottenham, which was runner-up last season.
Eden Hazard, Pedro Rodriguez, and Tiemoue Bakayoko are injured, striker Diego Costa is estranged, and Conte has a threadbare squad after selling midfield anchorman Nemanja Matic to rival Manchester United and loaning out many of the club’s youngsters.
There are three weeks left in the transfer window and Chelsea desperately needs reinforcements, with the Champions League also on the schedule.