Chelsea move into the top five with a third consecutive win
Three wins in a row for Thomas Tuchel since taking over, Sheffield United stay bottom
Chelsea’s Jorginho celebrates after scoring from the penalty spot against Sheffield United. Photograph: EPA
Sheffield United 1 Chelsea 2
Thomas Tuchel continues to benefit from his predecessors’ proteges. Chelsea moved into the top five with a third consecutive win under their new manager.
For the second successive game, Maurizio Sarri’s old ally Jorginho converted a penalty. Once again, part of Frank Lampard’s legacy showed he is becoming integral for Tuchel. Mason Mount scored Chelsea’s first and last league goals under his mentor. He opened for his account for his successor with a Lampard-esque goal to set up a hard-fought win. Sheffield United were beaten but performed with such verve to suggest that theirs is not a hopeless cause.
Chelsea’s July defeat at Bramall Lane was United’s last victory for almost six months but they approached this rematch with momentum after five wins in the past month. That renewed positivity almost brought them a first-minute lead. Chris Wilder had changed both his strikers, and the men who came in combined, Oli McBurnie sending Oliver Burke scurrying clear to shoot into the side-netting.
Chelsea had a different sort of reprieve 10 minutes later. United’s overlapping centre-backs combined, Kean Bryan crossing for Chris Basham to chest down the ball and then go to ground when tugged by Ben Chilwell. Kevin Friend pointed to the spot but, as Oliver Norwood prepared to take the penalty, VAR determined Basham was just offside.
Bryan had replaced Ethan Ampadu, ineligible because he is on loan from Chelsea, on a teamsheet that contained a message. Wilder was aggrieved the board did not heed his suggestions about January signings and named only six substitutes.
Tuchel has rather more choice. Callum Hudson-Odoi had been the flagship success of his first three games but was demoted to the bench by a manager who has shown a fondness for rotation.
If Tuchel was appointed in part to help bring the best from two of his costly compatriots, injury again prevented Kai Havertz’s appearance. Timo Werner retained his place and was afforded a chance to score a first goal in 14 league games. Mateo Kovacic released him with a long pass, Werner had the assurance to dink a finish over the onrushing Aaron Ramsdale but his shot lacked sufficient power; Basham materialised behind the goalkeeper to make a terrific clearance.
While Werner’s drought continued, he found another way of forging a breakthrough. United were organised and diligent but unlocked by his acceleration. He reached the byline to meet Chilwell’s pass, supplied a cutback and Mount picked out the far corner with expert precision.
It was a reward for possession – Chelsea had 76 per cent before the break – and perpetual pressure. The challenge was turning that into shots. Antonio Rüdiger made an unexpected contribution, thudding a long-range effort into the advertising hoardings, but defenders were involved again when César Azpilicueta crossed and the recalled Chilwell headed over the bar. But chances were rarities, which rendered Mount’s goal more important.
If Azpilicueta had scored the first goal for Tuchel, Rüdiger had the unwanted distinction of getting the first the German’s Chelsea conceded. It was a freakish own goal. As United advanced, McBurnie looked for Burke, Rüdiger did not realise Édouard Mendy had left his line and poked the ball past the goalkeeper.
Yet parity proved brief. Seventy seconds later, the misplaced pass from a defender came from Bryan, who sold Aaron Ramsdale short. Werner read it, ran to it and knocked it past the goalkeeper. He went down – whether it was a case of his knee connecting with Ramsdale’s face or vice versa was a moot point – and, in any case, Basham again arrived to make a goal-line clearance. Kevin Friend initially ruled it was not a penalty, changed his mind after viewing the monitor and Jorginho, reverting to his technique of a hop, skip and a jump, scored.
Ramsdale was assessed to see if the collision required the Premier League’s first concussion replacement while Tuchel made a double change, removing Chilwell and Olivier Giroud, and Wilder looked to his undermanned bench for substitute strikers.
United were spirited in their search for an equaliser. Wilder jettisoned his back five and David McGoldrick threatened to add to his haul of goals against Chelsea with a low drive. Rüdiger had to make a redemptive block when John Fleck surged into the penalty area.
Tuchel swapped Werner for the energy of N’Golo Kanté, helping him to regain control of the midfield, but Mendy still needed to save Billy Sharp’s 95th-minute overhead kick for Chelsea to depart with a victory that offered proof of revival. - Guardian