Thursday 19 September 2019

Yes Ndidi for Foxes as Lampard left frustrated

Chelsea 1 Leicester City 1

Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi rises highest to score the equaliser against Chelsea. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi rises highest to score the equaliser against Chelsea. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

Jason Burt

"IT'S the stuff of dreams," Frank Lampard said after his first game as Chelsea head coach at Stamford Bridge. "But I am here to win." And it is now three games without a victory for Lampard and the harsh reality is that against an impressive Leicester City they were not good enough; they were not the stuff of dreams.

"We need to be tougher and have game management," he added, and after a "first patch" of 25 minutes in which they were dominant they were left hanging on in front of their own fans with Lampard also acknowledging the exasperation.

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (left) and Chelsea's Andreas Christensen battle for the ball. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (left) and Chelsea's Andreas Christensen battle for the ball. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire

"If there were frustrations in the crowd there were frustrations on the bench and in the team. We want to do well," he argued. "There are some tough elements to this year."

It could, certainly, be a testing season at Chelsea but certainly not a dull one. There will not be many goalless draws with Lampard committed to attack as well as youth but they will have to find the formula to see through games such as this and against sides such as Leicester who, not unreasonably, eye them as catchable this campaign.

Right now Lampard is even open to the accusation of being a naive manager while there was a sign of the pressure he is feeling when he cited the Fifa transfer ban.

On this evidence Leicester and Brendan Rodgers have every right to feel optimistic with James Maddison creating chance after chance but spurning the best of all - skying a shot high over the bar - as a carnival atmosphere was transformed into something far more fraught.

Leicester City's Youri Tielemans in action with Chelsea's Mason Mount and N'Golo Kante. Photo: Reuters/Eddie Keogh
Leicester City's Youri Tielemans in action with Chelsea's Mason Mount and N'Golo Kante. Photo: Reuters/Eddie Keogh

"We should have won it," Rodgers said - and that was not a boast.

Chelsea have a point from their opening two league games after losing 4-0 at Manchester United. They were sandwiched by the taxing Uefa Super Cup in Istanbul, which went to extra time and penalties and evidently took something out of them, as it had Liverpool, as they struggled long before the end.

"It's a results business, clearly," Lampard added. "It's strange because the performance against Manchester United made me happier than today's and certainly that against Liverpool. But we need both."

And quickly, just to appease any concern even if - and this is Chelsea after all - they surely have to give him as much time as possible and share the belief that he has in young players such as Mason Mount. It felt like the 20-year-old would be the story.

Leicester City's Jonny Evans in action with Chelsea's Mason Mount. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley
Leicester City's Jonny Evans in action with Chelsea's Mason Mount. Photo: Reuters/John Sibley

"Welcome home Super Frank," read the huge banner that was passed along the Shed End prior to kick off and it was appropriate that Mount, a goalscoring midfielder, made his mark in his full Premier League debut for the club he first trained with aged just six before coming through the academy.

Lampard has faith in Mount and there was an early dividend when he was sharp to pounce, dispossessing Wilfred Ndidi as he dawdled with the ball on the edge of his own penalty area. Mount took it off him and got a low shot off, across Kasper Schmeichel and into the corner of the net, before being tackled.

Lampard turned and punched the air three times in celebration.

Mount became the first English player to score for Chelsea under an English manager since Dennis Wise against Blackburn under Glenn Hoddle in 1996 and it capped a fast and furious start. After 40 seconds Pedro had volleyed into the side-netting from Oliver Giroud's chested pass.

Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi (centre left) scores his side's first goal of the game. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire.
Leicester City's Wilfred Ndidi (centre left) scores his side's first goal of the game. Photo: Steven Paston/PA Wire.

After 100 seconds Schmeichel was forced into a double save as he denied Mount and then prevented Christian Pulisic from striking with the follow up. After seven minutes they scored and there was another chance, a low shot by N'Golo Kante deflected wide by Christian Fuchs.

But after what Rodgers acknowledged had been a "tough start" with the crowd's reaction "feeding into the players", the momentum switched dramatically in the second half when Maddison got closer to Jamie Vardy and Chelsea struggled.

Maddison dominated and this is where, maybe, using Kante in an advanced midfield position was not working for Chelsea with Jorginho unable to snuff out the danger. There were warning signs and then a goal and redemption for Ndidi.

It came as Fuchs, who had a storming second half from left-back with Ben Chilwell injured, surged forward and won a corner which Maddison took.

Ndidi rose easily between Cesar Azpilicueta and Kurt Zouma to plant a header into the net. What would be Chelsea's response?

Lampard made changes but they wilted even more with the lack of a focus to their attack again causing problems.

The ball was coming back at them too quickly with Caglar Soyuncu, at the heart of Leicester's defence, proving to be a sound Harry Maguire replacement and when Maddison had the chance to score, ten yards out, he steadied himself before firing over.

It did not faze the midfielder, who sent Vardy clear with a clever reverse pass only for the striker to shoot across goal before Kepa beat out a fierce drive by Youri Tielemans.

The final whistle came as a relief to Chelsea.

"The first patch was how we want to play and the rest of the game was not quite how we want to play," Lampard reasoned. "We were not good enough in possession . . . It [the reception] felt great. Obviously it was a special moment for me. It's the stuff of dreams and the fans were great and I appreciate that but I am here to win for the club and we can do better than we did."

Having spent 13 years at Chelsea Lampard knows, whatever the goodwill towards him, his team will have to do better. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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