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Giroud underlines character to seal Chelsea's top four spot

Chelsea 2 Wolves 0

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Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s second goal against Wolves. Photo: Reuters

Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s second goal against Wolves. Photo: Reuters

Olivier Giroud celebrates after scoring Chelsea’s second goal against Wolves. Photo: Reuters

After a season that really ebbed and flowed, and often involved a lot of chaos, Chelsea secured their place in the Champions League with minimal complications.

This victory over Wolves was as smooth as the brilliant Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud goals that ensured it. Frank Lampard's side even kept a rare clean sheet for good measure, although it was Willy Caballero that benefited, rather than Kepa Arrizabalaga.

That decision was the sole point of controversy on the afternoon - and may well point to big decisions in the summer.

One of Chelsea's big new signings was here to see this, as Timo Werner took in his first match, and his new teammates made sure he will be joining a Champions League team. Wolves won't even be a Europa League team. Despite a good season, they end up with nothing, at least from the Premier League.

There is a bigger lesson there, but not necessarily for Nuno Espirito Santo and his side. After a season that so often threatened to upset the established order, and so much talk of shocks, the top four have been filled by the wealthiest quartet.

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Chelsea's Tammy Abraham in action with Wolves' Willy Boly contest an aerial ball. Photo: Reuters

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham in action with Wolves' Willy Boly contest an aerial ball. Photo: Reuters

Chelsea's Tammy Abraham in action with Wolves' Willy Boly contest an aerial ball. Photo: Reuters

 

Even Lampard's achievement should be put in that context.

Wolves can still get into the Champions League by winning this season's Europa League - but they will have to sharpen up from this.

They were far too easily caught in Chelsea's trap.

The circumstances certainly seemed to condition Lampard's thinking. Knowing a draw would be enough, he wasn't taking any chances. As well as dropping Kepa, Lampard went for a three-man central defence that often felt more like five at the back.

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It meant Chelsea ceded a lot of play to Wolves, but that there was a lot less chaos to their game. There was little of the mayhem that has characterised recent matches.

It instead all felt much more continental, befitting the consequences of the occasion. Chelsea were looking to sit off and then pick holes in behind Wolves. All of Mount, Marcos Alonso and Christian Pulisic almost broke through in the first half.

Warnings

They were warnings for Wolves, who didn't seem completely comfortable with being given the initiative. They had a lot of the ball but not many of the chances.

They did have some grievance with the decision that led to Mount's free-kick. With Alonso careering forward, Neto pulled his foot away, only for the wing-back to still go over.

Stuart Atwell gave the free-kick amid a fair few recriminations.

It should have been one to look at.

Mount's effort was certainly one to look at. He curled a classic free-kick over the wall and into the corner.

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Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can't hide his feelings. Photo: Reuters

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can't hide his feelings. Photo: Reuters

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo can't hide his feelings. Photo: Reuters

 

Wolves were still complaining, but Lampard might feel it is some karma for the free-kick decision that wrongly went against Chelsea on Wednesday at Liverpool.

His team were now set, and perfectly set up to take advantage of Wolves' need to get forward. That became apparent almost immediately. The ball was punted up the pitch, Chelsea won it, and Mount surged forward at pace to feed Giroud. Without breaking stride, the forward stuck the ball around Rui Patricio before beating Conor Coady to slide it in.

It was another excellent goal, that showcased very different qualities to the first.

It was also another Giroud goal, his 13th of the season, and seventh since the restart.

That's quite a return for 10 games, and shows what a force the forward has become for Chelsea. He has been as influential as anyone in getting Chelsea back in the Champions League.

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Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero makes a save. Photo: PA

Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero makes a save. Photo: PA

Chelsea keeper Willy Caballero makes a save. Photo: PA

 

It is also testament to his character. This is a player who had the option to leave in January, but opted to stay and fight for his place, to show his worth.

He's more than done that. He also may well be Werner's main competition for the lead striking role. That's how good he's been.

Chelsea were good here, in a way they hadn't been in the last few weeks. They were more composed, more assured, more convincing.

They looked a less chaotic team.

It means they are again a Champions League team.

© Independent News Service


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