Chelsea continued their run of good form and moved up to third place in the Premier League table with a 4-1 victory over Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge. Frank Lampard’s side fell behind to a David McGoldrick goal after nine minutes as the away team attempted to take the early initiative. Chelsea quickly recovered their composure, equalising through Tammy Abraham after 23 minutes and took the lead when Ben Chilwell scored 11 minutes later. The home side killed the game with 13 minutes to go when Thiago Silva scored a glancing header from a corner and underlined their domination three minutes later with a Timo Werner strike.
Chris Wilder’s team were pinned inside their own half for long periods. They lacked belief and a cutting edge. They remain rooted to the bottom of the table and will need to improve significantly to avoid the season turning into a long battle against relegation.
Chilwell had a torrid start to the game. Chis Basham was United’s biggest threat in the opening minutes, pushing up on Chilwell and making life uncomfortable for the left back. Twice the danger was nullified – Basham’s first cross was cut out and the second attempt was deflected by Chilwell for a corner.
The third time it was different. Basham had plenty of space and rolled a composed ball to Sander Berge inside the area. The Norwegian did not connect with his shot as sweetly as he might have liked but it did not matter. McGoldrick flicked out his heel and diverted the effort into the net.
It was the first goal Lampard side had conceded in 459 minutes in all competitions. They surged forward in response but at first found little space against United’s massed defence. Timo Werner, operating wide on the left, struggled to get into the game, aiming a couple of directionless cross-shots into the box that were easily scooped up by Aaron Ramsdale.
Hakim Ziyech was feeling his way into the game, though, and the visiting side become cautious, allowing their opponents to lay siege to Ramsdale’s area. Max Lowe shot from distance on a rare United foray forward but an equaliser started to become increasingly inevitable.
A slice of luck helped Chelsea. Ziyech clipped a pass that found Mateo Kovacic running into the box and the Croat cut a cross back from the byline to Abraham. The striker was unable to catch the ball properly but he made enough contract to send it spinning into the ground. The shot looped up over Basham’s head and nestled in the net.
United’s confidence drained. After the early shock Chelsea grew into the game and their passing became more precise as the minutes ticked by. Werner took advantage of a ballwatching defence to find space at the back post and the German lashed a fine shot against the bar.
It was a warning that the defenders did not heed. Ziyech, growing in influence every time he was in possession, sent a high effort into the area. Ramsdale and Lowe failed to cut it out and Chilwell was able to bundle the ball into the net to give his side the lead.
The Chelsea left back came close to scoring a second goal as his team poured forward but Ramsdale made a fine one-handed save from Chilwell’s volley.
The ambition and vigour shown by United in the early exchanges had evaporated but they roused themselves in the closing moments of the half. The away team forced a corner and Edouard Mendy flapped at the incoming ball, sparking a brief panic in the defence before the goalkeeper restored order by saving a John Lundstram shot.
United were two goals down at the break in the corresponding game last season and came back to draw 2-2. They showed few signs of fashioning a similar fightback. They should have fallen further behind when Enda Stevens made a hash of a header and allowed Kovacic the freedom to run into the area. The midfielder dallied on the ball and gave Basham the opportunity to get across and put the ball out for a corner.
For long spells Chelsea probed around the opposition box. Whenever United cleared, neither McGoldrick nor the anonymous Rhian Brewster were unable to hold the ball up.
At the other end Abrahams worked the ball across the box to Ziyech, whose shot seemed to be flying goalward before John Egan headed it over for a corner. The subsequent set-piece turned into a mad scramble after Ramsdale fumbled a Kovacic shot. Ziyech shot narrowly wide as the home team looked for the score that would secure the game. The former Ajax midfielder then released Werner to run through on goal but the striker sent his lob wide.
Silva ended any Chelsea worries with his glancing header in the 77th minute. It was almost too easy for the Brazilian, who was barely challenged by the defence.
Werner made up for his earlier miss in the 80th minute when a Lowe clearance deflected off N’Golo Kante into his path. This time the German made no mistake and the goal gave the scoreline a more accurate reflection of the difference between the teams. Wilder raged on the sidelines at the decisions that went against his team but in truth Chelsea needed no help from anyone against a United side that struggled in every department.
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