After a slow start to the new Premier League season, Frank Lampard’s young Chelsea squad looked to be heading into the September international break riding a two-game winning streak.
Instead, the Blues squandered Tammy Abraham’s second consecutive brace by conceding twice in the second half — including Kurt Zouma’s decisive own goal in the 89th minute — against promoted Sheffield United and had to settle for a disappointing 2-2 draw at home.
It was a near-perfect first half from Chelsea ...
Abraham opened the scoring at Stamford Bridge in the 19th minute, the 21-year-old South London native converting the rebound after American Christian Pulisic’s close-range deflection was spilled by Blades goalkeeper Dean Henderson:
Abraham would double the hosts’ advantage just before halftime when he jumped all over a defensive error and blasted a right-footed shot past Henderson for his fourth goal of the season.
... but the young Blues’ inexperience showed in the second
Chelsea — which started a lineup with an average age of 24, the club’s youngest XI in Premier League history — seemed in total control of the match at that point. But the Blues showed their lack of experience when the second half began.
Lampard was without the injured veteran trio N’Golo Kante, Pedro and Toni Rudiger. Another vet, Brazilian attacker Willian, is still returning to full fitness after his own injury troubles and who once again came off the bench.
In that context, maybe it shouldn’t have been surprising that Sheffield United was able to cut the lead in half through Callum Robinson not even 90 seconds after the break:
The early strike changed completely the tenor of the match. Suddenly Chelsea was on the back foot, with Sheffield — which placed second in the rough-and-tumble second-tier English Championship last season — looking like the team most likely to score next.
It stayed that way to the end. The visitors came close to finding the equalizer on several occasions before it actually came off.
Just when it looked like Lampard’s side might escape with all three points, Sheffield’s pressure paid off as Zouma inadvertently deflected Robinson’s cross past Kepa Arrizabalaga and into his own net:
Despite the result, some silver linings for Chelsea
This was a draw that felt like a loss, no question about it. Instead of two wins and a tie from their first four games, the Blues have just one victory and dropped four of six possible points at home. Not good.
That said, Lampard should also be able to find positives before the schedule resumes in two weeks. Abraham has been one of the stories of the season so far. Pulisic, Mason Mount and other youngsters have shown that they belong not just in England’s top flight, but in Lampard’s starting XI, too. (Saturday’s contest marked the first time Pulisic has gone the entire 90 minutes for Chelsea).
These kids are good, but they shouldn’t be expected to do it alone. Expect the Blues to be a lot more consistent once the likes of Kante, Pedro and Rudiger return.
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