Mateo Kovacic

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Lampard ‘pleased for Pulisic,’ praises subs in Chelsea win

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Frank Lampard‘s fired up on-field response to Chelsea’s resilient 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday carried over to the post-match press conference.

The manager’s subs enabled the Blues to claim all three points, as Mateo Kovacic and Christian Pulisic changed the midfield and helped prod Marcos Alonso‘s second-half winner.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle ]

“Saw a spirit and energy of the team, keep picking up the wins and take nothing for granted,” he said.

“We had a problem in the game, but solved it. Kovacic was outstanding and Christian got at people. I am pleased, we have to play like that. We got our way.”

Lampard was asked specifically about Pulisic, and said the atmosphere around the American star needs to calm down a little bit.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch ]

“I am really pleased for him,” Lampard said. “He is a hot topic. Everyone has got a little carried away. To see him play that way (was good).”

Chelsea will finish the weekend in the Top Five and its favorable run of fixtures continue after the Champions League midweek. The Blues next see Burnley, Watford, and Crystal Palace before its next top-end tilt with Man City.

Pulisic watch: USMNT star a difference maker off the bench in win

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USMNT winger Christian Pulisic changed the game after his introduction to Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Newcastle United on Saturday.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 1-0 Newcastle ]

Deployed for Mason Mount in the center of the three in a 4-2-3-1, Pulisic caused the turnover that led to Chelsea’s first goal and saw countryman DeAndre Yedlin deny him a proper assist late on.

Here are his prime contributions over 25-plus minutes.

[ MORE: Sargent scores for Bremen ]

65th minute: Calmly settles a knee-high pass to sent Callum Hudson-Odoi down the left, but the Englishman is dispossessed.

68th minute: Hudson-Odoi’s deflected pass makes its way a bit behind Pulisic, who settles with his first touch but sees his blast well-saved by a desperate Martin Dubravka.

69th minute: Takes a throw-in marked by two and gets the ball back to the backs for a reload.

74th minute: Pulisic steals the ball in the final third and spots Hudson-Odoi, who lays off for Alonso. The Spaniard is in his office to rip a shot across goal and past a less-than-ideal Dubravka.

79th minute: The American runs into space to find Mateo Kovacic‘s through ball, and passes to Abraham for a should-be goal. The English striker doesn’t feel the onrushing DeAndre Yedlin, who slides to block Abraham’s shot and his countryman’s would-be assist.

90+2: Dribbles and moves the ball laterally to link with Willian, who wins a free kick which allowed Chelsea to soak up the final moments.

Stats: One shot, 88 percent passing, one key pass, two aerials won.

Euro qualifying: Gundogan saves 10-man Germany, Bale earns Wales draw

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Germany played for much of its visit to Estonia with 10 men as Emre Can was sent off for a bad last-man tackle just 14 minutes in, but Ilkay Gundogan‘s second-half brace saw Germany slide through with all three points on a 3-0 win to jump back on top of Group C. The all-important first came on a deflected effort from just outside the box to the right of center, while his second came minutes later with a shot from nearly the same place but just inside the area. Timo Werner added the third with under 20 minutes to go.

Wales secured a 1-1 draw at home against Croatia, but both sides will have greivences with the refereeing. Daniel James was taken out by Dejan Lovren on the edge of the box eight minutes in and likely should have been a penalty kick as the Liverpool defender barged James over without playing the ball. After Nikola Vlasic put Croatia ahead moments later, Gareth Bale would equalize just before halftime one a silky play through the Croatian defense, but a foul in the buildup wasn’t called that would have stopped play before the goalscoring moment.

There were also a pair of scary moments that involved nasty-looking head injuries. James came together with a pair of Croatians in the first half, and while it looked initially like Borna Barisic and Domagoj Vida had taken the brunt of the clash, James appeared to lose consciousness thanks to a knee in the back of his head. Despite the appearance of a clear distressing head injury, James was allowed to continue. Just second after the halftime break, Ethan Ampadu settled under the ball for a header until Bruno Petkovic blasted through his torso from behind, sending the Welsh midfielder to the ground awkwardly, holding his head in agony. Petkovic came in so hard that he earned a yellow card and maybe could have even seen red on another day. Ampadu was not allowed to continue, replaced immediately by Joe Morrell. Also notable in the match, Mateo Kovacic was taken off at halftime after appearing to pick up a muscle problem.

Austria held on for a 1-0 victory over Slovenia to temporarily jump into the lead in Group G, ahead of Poland on goal differential. Hoffenheim defender Stefan Posch scored the game’s only goal, a 21st minute effort off a corner. The back line did the rest, holding the hosts to just two shots on target in Ljubljana.

Poland secured qualification to the finals with a 2-0 win over North Macedonia behind goals from Przemyslaw Frankowski and Arkadiusz Milik, both which came in the final 20 minutes. The first was a messy finish from Chicago Fire winger Frankowski, collecting a flubbed Robert Lewandowski shot and poking it through past goakeeper Stole Dimitrievski. The second goal was much prettier, with the referee playing advantage after Lewandowski was fouled, and Milik delivered a delicious looper into the far corner.

Click here to see a roundup of the action from the early slate of games, including wins by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Russia.

Full Sunday Euro 2020 qualification scoreboard:

Kazakhstan 0-2 Belgium
Belarus 1-2 Netherlands
Cyprus 0-5 Russia
Hungary 1-0 Azerbaijan
Scotland 6-0 San Marino
Estonia 0-3 Germany
Poland 2-0 North Macedonia
Slovenia 0-1 Austria
Wales 1-1 Croatia

Teams who have secured guaranteed Euro 2020 qualification:

Italy
Belgium
Russia
Poland

Chelsea confirm Kante’s absence; Rudiger, Hudson-Odoi return

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Things haven’t gone so smoothly for Chelsea’s new manager Frank Lampard this season (still weird to be saying he’s their boss, but I’ll crack on…) and their trip to Wolves on Saturday just got tougher.

N’Golo Kante has been ruled out of the clash at Molineux (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) due to a reoccurring ankle problem.

The superstar defensive midfielder has only played 107 minutes so far this season in the Premier League and Lampard revealed that the situation hasn’t improved.

“N’Golo is not fit, Kovacic is,’ Lampard added. “This game has come too soon for him, hopefully close. We are waiting for that final step, but hopefully that will be the same time.”

Mateo Kovacic has done okay alongside Jorginho in central midfield, but a fit and fired up Kante makes such a huge difference to Chelsea’s defensive system and he has been badly missed so far. In a game against Wolves, a team who will seriously challenge Chelsea for a place in the top six this season, not having Kante is crucial.

But on the positive side of things Antonio Rudiger is back and is ready to solidify a shaky Chelsea defense, as both Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen have been struggling at center back.

Lampard believes Rudiger should be ready to be a leader in this young Chelsea side.

“He’s fit. It’s a choice for myself, but he will have an important role,” Lampard said. “We have missed him as we have with a few more front line players. It is important in a team. I don’t want a young team for the sake of it. He can be influential. He is ready to take on those roles.”

More good news has also arrived for Lampard on the injury front, as Callum Hudson-Odoi and Reece James will play for Chelsea’s U23 side against Brighton on Friday as they step up their comebacks.

The return of Hudson-Odoi, still just 18 years old, will be a huge boost and give Lampard some much-needed competition in wide areas as the Blues continue to struggle with the summer departure of Eden Hazard. He injured his Achilles in April after bursting onto the scene for club and country, but has made a quicker than expected recovery.

“Callum will play for the U23s along with Reece James,” Lampard confirmed. “He has been training for a while but there are some issues to make sure that he’s okay. It will be great to see that.”

CHO’s return may not be good news for Christian Pulisic, as the USMNT star will now be in direct competition with the England international who is expected to be one of the best-ever players to come through Chelsea’s academy.

Pulisic watch: How did USMNT star perform for Chelsea?

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Christian Pulisic played his first full 90 minutes as a Chelsea player on Saturday, as he dug deep but Chelsea blew a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 against Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Pulisic, 20, now heads back to the USA to lead the USMNT on international duty, as the Stars and Stripes play Mexico at MetLife Stadium next Friday and then Uruguay in St. Louis.

Below we focus on how Pulisic fared in another workmanlike display on both flanks for the Blues.


5th minute: Struggling to get involved as plenty of Chelsea’s play is coming down the left flank.

19th minute: His first real involvement in the game leads to a goal. Pulisic surges forward, Azpilicueta crosses and Abraham heads towards goal. The USMNT midfielder then put off goalkeeper Dean Henderson and Abraham slammed home to put Chelsea 1-0 up.

25th minute: Has spent a lot of time working back defensively in the right back position.

29th minute: Leads a Chelsea attack after picking the ball up in his own half.

31st minute: Wriggles free from a challenge and is then fouled by Stevens to win a free kick right on the edge of the box. A growing influence on the game.

35th minute: Starts a Chelsea attack by drifting inside with the ball. Then plays a neat pass into Barkley, but the attack breaks down on the edge of the box. Seeing more of the ball as half time approaches.

37th minute: Turns in a central area and plays a nice ball to Abraham who tees up Mateo Kovacic, but the Croatian midfielder fires just wide of the far post.

46th minute: Stevens pushes down Pulisic’s flank and crosses for Robinson to score. Sheffield United pull one back, make it 2-1.

54th minute: Tracks back and shows some nifty footwork to get away from one tackle, before being brought down to win a free kick. Struggling to impact the game as Sheffield United push players on in wide areas.

57th minute: Cut inside from the right flank and plays a few passes, which ends in Barkley’s long-range shot being saved. Pulisic was waiting to tap home a rebound.

61st minute: Willian comes on for Barkley, with Pulisic switching from the right flank to the left and Mount playing in a central role.

64th minute: Doing plenty of defensive work, once again, as he hooks a long ball forward from left back and then blocks a pass.

68th minute: Pulisic cuts in from the left and plays a clever pass over to Azpilicueta. Tidy play which is appreciated by the home fans.

69th minute: Almost latches onto a loose ball in the box, but the offside flag went up against him. He has now switched to the right flank.

70th minute: Now finds himself tracking back in the right back position, but Stevens gets the better of him and sets up a Sheffield United attack as Kepa saves Norwood’s shot. Moments later snaps into a tackle to win a throw in.

74th minute: Gets the ball in the box from Willian but just as he looks to shoot, Freeman tackles superbly. Took a little too long on the ball.

81st minute: Makes a great run on the right side of the box but Kovacic’s ball to find him is short and cut out. Wasted opportunity.

93rd minute: Loses possession centrally and then goes down in the box, but penalty appeals waved away.