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Chelsea must keep Gilmour as Abraham fails to match Giroud

O

n this occasion there was no late drama, no last-gasp intervention from Olivier Giroud.

Nor was it needed, even if Frank Lampard made it abundantly clear he wanted to end Group E on a high with a flurry of late substitutions sent on to find a winner against Krasnodar.

Instead, Chelsea had to settle for a 1-1 draw with qualification for the Champions League knockout stages long since secured and top spot guaranteed before kick-off.

Jorginho’s first-half penalty ensured the point after Remy Cabella had given the visitors the lead.

Chelsea made light work of a potentially tricky group and even after making 10 changes to his starting lineup, Lampard still ended it without defeat.

Of course he would have liked to maintain momentum with another victory, especially in front of 2,000 fans, warning beforehand that form is not something that can be switched on and off. Yet, with the challenges ahead, this game was always going to be at the bottom of his priorities.

Five games in 17 days await Chelsea before the end of the month when their Premier League title credentials will be put under the microscope.

With such a hectic schedule, this was a chance for Lampard to rest legs and give an opportunity to fringe players to prove they deserve more game-time.

It might have been a completely different XI to the one that beat Leeds at the weekend if not for injury to Callum Hudson-Odoi, who strained his hamstring in training, meaning Kai Havertz kept his place.

The changes cost Chelsea their fluidity, while they lacked cutting edge without Timo Werner and the injured Hakim Ziyech. But it demonstrated the remarkable strength in depth Lampard has to call on as he challenges domestically and in Europe, with Billy Gilmour, in particular, impressing in his first start of the season after a serious knee injury.

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In theory, things should get somewhat easier from this point for Lampard, with Europe put on ice until February.

His team have already stayed right in touch with Tottenham and Liverpool at the top of the table, even with their midweek Champions League commitments.

Now he has only domestic matters to focus on for the next few months – a hectic Christmas with two games in 48 hours notwithstanding.

Still, his desire to head into that period – starting with Everton on Saturday – on a high was evident, even among the changes.

( AFP via Getty Images )

But it was Krasnodar who took the lead with a goal of real quality from former Newcastle midfielder Cabella after 24 minutes.His driving run down the left had Chelsea defenders retreating before laying it off out wide.

When Viktor Claesson played the ball back into the box Cabella found space and swept a shot into the bottom corner, past the dive of Kepa.

Chelsea provided the perfect response and were back on level terms four minutes later.

The impressive Mateo Kovacic fed Tammy Abraham in the box and he was sent tumbling by Kaio.

In the absence of Werner, Jorginho resumed penalty-taking duties, sending Evgeni Gorodov the wrong way as he tucked his shot low to the right.

That flurry of action was not repeated after the break as both sides struggled to create clear-cut openings.

( AFP via Getty Images )

Kepa pushed away one effort from Wanderson Maciel, while Abraham was denied by the legs of Gorodov when poaching the ball in the box.

Chelsea lacked that touch of quality up front, with the final ball or finish letting them down.

Lampard still went in search of the win – throwing on Werner, N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud late on – but they too failed to find the finishing touch.

( AFP via Getty Images )

In his first start since knee surgery, Gilmour sent a reminder of the qualities that had Roy Keane purring last season.

The Manchester United legend and Sky Sports pundit is more known for his withering put downs than his praise, so for him to describe Gilmour as “world class” is quite the statement.

He’s only 19, but he just looks completely at home in this Chelsea team.

Even if he will have to be patient when it comes to opportunities, he could still have a big part to play this season.

Does Lampard really want to let such a talent go out on loan when he’s bidding for glory in the Premier League and Europe?

Abraham misses his chance

( AFP via Getty Images )

It was in similar circumstances in Seville that Giroud forced his way into Lampard’s plans.

But Abraham was unable to make a strong case to be reinstated at the point of Chelsea’s attack against Everton.

He did win the penalty that secured a draw – but at the moment he cannot replicate the cutting edge Giroud brings.


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