LONDON — Huddersfield will savour their Premier League survival by journeying back to West Yorkshire by coach, manager David Wagner revealed after Wednesday’s dramatic 1-1 draw at Chelsea.
Wagner’s men defended heroically to hang on for the decisive point that moves them four clear of the relegation zone with one match to play, ensuring they will have a second season in the top flight next season, against all odds.
When the season began, Huddersfield had the highest chance to be relegated, at 57 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight — but following draws away to champions Manchester City on Sunday and Chelsea three days later, they will be staying up.
Huddersfield players celebrated wildly with their travelling supporters at the final whistle, and crates of beer were spotted being carried down the Stamford Bridge tunnel as the survival party began in the away dressing room.
Speaking after the match, a delighted Wagner said Huddersfield had cancelled their scheduled flight back north in favour of a 193-mile journey from West London, with the revelry set to continue long into the night.
“This achievement for our football club is just incredible,” the former U.S. international said. “We did it on our own. We didn’t rely on anybody. We did it with our result, in this week with [matches against Manchester] City, Chelsea and Arsenal … it’s just unbelievable. I’m so proud that the players have done it by themselves, and I’m happy for them, my backroom staff and the fans.
“For sure, Chelsea were the better team and we had the Lady Luck. We saw top, top quality in Chelsea’s side, and we saw desire, spirit, great attitude and an unbelievable work rate on our side, and sometimes that’s enough. Today was a stolen point but, to be perfectly honest, I don’t care.”
Barely an hour had passed from Huddersfield improbably Premier League salvation before Steve Nicol spoiled their party by claiming they’ll surely be relegated next season.
Asked how he planned to celebrate with the squad, Wagner replied: “The guys just said we cancelled their flight. They want to go back by coach. They have 48 hours, and what they say, we’ll do. We’ll go back by coach.”
Laurent Depoitre gave Huddersfield the lead with their first real attack in the 50th minute at Stamford Bridge, and though Chelsea found a fortuitous equaliser through Marcos Alonso just after the hour mark, the Blues could not find a winner.
The draw deals another huge blow to Chelsea, who must now beat Newcastle at St James’ Park and hope Brighton beat Liverpool at Anfield to qualify for next season’s Champions League, but Antonio Conte insisted that his players did not fail because of a lack of effort.
“It’s very difficult to explain the draw today, because when you have 82 percent possession and create many chances, concede only counterattack and draw the game … it’s very difficult to explain,” he said. “We must accept the result. We must accept staying fifth in the table.
“But it’s a pity because, also today, I saw a fantastic commitment from my players. They tried to get three points. But they weren’t able to score one goal more than our opponent. Football is simple: If you want to win, you have to score one goal more than your opponent. We weren’t able to do this.
“The [top-four] situation wasn’t in our hands before this game and, for sure, the possibility is less now after this game. At the same time, we have to try. We have to try to do our best.”