Brentford's Ethan Pinnock stops the shot by Chelsea's Raheem Sterling
London (AFP) - Graham Potter defended his decision to rest Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as Chelsea’s five-match winning run came to an end in a 0-0 draw at Brentford on Wednesday.
Potter’s side were unable to secure their sixth successive victory in all competitions, but they did at least extend their unbeaten run under the former Brighton boss to seven matches.
Encouragingly for Potter, the fourth placed Blues have now gone five games without conceding a goal after their defensive frailties under his predecessor Thomas Tuchel earlier this season.
Potter had made five changes from the side which beat Aston Villa 2-0, with former Barcelona striker Aubameyang dropping to the bench despite the Gabon star’s three goals in his previous five games.
Aubameyang was finally sent on with nine minutes remaining and although he had little chance to make an impact, Potter was happy with his decision.
“I know the reasons why. He’s played a lot and it gave Kai Havertz a chance to play. But yes, I understand the question,” Potter said.
“I thought over the course of the game a point was fair. They had chances, we had chances. We pushed and pushed at the end but they make it hard for you.
“They do what they do really well. Full respect to them. The positives are a clean sheet and a point. Four points from two away matches is positive and we have to move on.”
There was a concern for Potter after England midfielder Conor Gallagher came off in the first half, a fitness blow that came just days after N’Golo Kante was ruled out for several months.
“I haven’t spoken to the doctors but he just felt ill, he said he thought he was going to be sick. Hopefully it’s a 24-hour thing and he’ll be OK,” Potter said.
Brentford threatened early on when Ivan Toney had a header from Mads Roerslev’s cross tipped over the crossbar by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
The closest Chelsea came to scoring in a low-key half was an angled drive from Cesar Azpilicueta which Bees keeper David Raya tipped around the far post.
The Blues wanted a penalty for a Rico Henry handball, and another when Kai Havertz tumbled under pressure from Ben Mee, but they got neither.
Brentford should have taken the lead five minutes into the second half when Bryan Mbeumo had a free header from another Roerslev cross, but the Cameroon forward planted his header straight at Kepa.
Potter made a triple substitution on the hour but there was still no sign of Aubameyang, with teenager Carney Chukwuemeka sent on along with Sterling and Christian Pulisic.
It was Brentford who were closest to snatching all three points when Henry’s shot crashed into the side-netting.
Aubameyang was finally sent on but his only half-chance was a low drive from outside the area which was easily gathered by Raya.
Raya also beat away a swerving drive from Pulisic and saved with his feet from Chukwuemeka in stoppage-time.