Chelsea were back at Stamford Bridge to conclude the opening month of the season, as they welcomed Sheffield United to SW6. After securing their first win of the campaign against Norwich the previous week, the Blues were eager to make it back to back victories.
Frank Lampard put out a standard side at the Bridge, bar one notable change. Youngster Fikayo Tomori came in to make his first Premier League start at centre-back, replacing Andreas Christensen to partner up with Kurt Zouma.
The first half once again showed a very strong Chelsea side, as they went forward positively and threatened the visitors time after time. Their dominance was rewarded with a goal 19 minutes in, as Tammy Abraham pounced on a defensive mistake to fire home for his first senior goal at Stamford Bridge.
That goal gave confidence to Abraham and the rest of the team, as they continue to move the ball well and push on for a second. They got exactly what they deserved just before half time, as like clockwork Abraham capitalised on a defensive error again to score again, as the Blues went into half-time 2-0 up.
It looked like the game was beyond Sheffield United, who seemed to be down and out with another half to play. All Chelsea had to do was either get one more goal to well and truly seal the win, or go defensive and try and sit on their two-goal lead.
Whatever Lampard’s plan was, it went out of the window 59 seconds into the second half. Sheffield United broke forward and cut open Chelsea’s defence, before an unmarked Callum Robinson fired home to pull the Blades back into the game and make it a nervy 45 minutes for the west Londoners.
Knowing Chelsea, we expected them to push harder and fight to restore their two-goal lead. But they didn’t. The attacking play decreased in quantity and quality, with passes in the final third much sloppier and much harder to find as the game went on.
It seemed that, like the Leicester draw two weeks ago, Chelsea were out of breath. They went from dominating a newly promoted side as expected to chasing the ball and hanging on for a win, something that was shocking. The Blues were getting weary and deflated, and it became a case of fighting to hold onto three points rather than cruising to victory.
Sheffield United were much improved, but partly because Chelsea were more vulnerable. The backline was getting cut open much more now, though defensive mishaps come as no surprise to any of us. Chelsea’s performance was rapidly deteriorating, and it was only a matter of time before the visitors made it all square.
If we’ve learnt anything from the new look Chelsea under Lampard, it was summed up in those 90 minutes of football. We start brilliantly, with high intensity and good attacking play in the opening 20 minutes that is capped off with a goal. Then Chelsea can’t maintain that, get tired and eventually allow their opponents back into the game.
You can sum up the game in seven words: good going forward, awful at the back. It was a hugely frustrating afternoon for the Blues, who now sit 9th in the league after 4 games. We must remember it is a time of transition and development, but it was a bitter pill to swallow as Chelsea ended the month with a draw that felt like a defeat.
Taken from my 90min match report
Quotes from Chelsea FC (via 90min)
“It is not the defence, it is conceding as a team so the lack of concentration or mistakes for the goals are moments when you defend as a team, as much as you attack as a team. We concede because we switch off in a game that should be comfortably seen out at 2-0 up.”Lampard on switching off
“It was not bold because it was one for one in both positions. [Mateo] Kovacic was on his haunches and blatantly tired. Billy Gilmour is a midfield player who I had on the bench. I have faith in Billy to come though. Other people can make what they want with that but I wasn’t being clever at 2-1, I was trying to see the game out.”Lampard on bringing on Billy Bilmour
“I am trying to work all over the team to get the right combination and Rudiger now is fit after the international break so he gives me another choice. I’m hoping N’Golo will be back for Wolves. The medical team have said to me that with no setbacks he should be, and that will be a big boost.”Lampard on Antonio Rudiger and N’Golo Kante:
Chelsea have two weeks to reflect and recover from Saturday’s draw, as they go into the first international break of the season. The Blues next travel to Molineux to face Wolves on 14 September, before hosting Valencia in the Champions League opener at the Bridge three days later.
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