Harry Winks opened the scoring, and his England account, in the 32nd minute. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Winks near the top of Kosovo’s penalty area and though Winks’ first touch appeared quite poor, every player in blue stopped and stood as the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder walked in on goal and coolly slotted the ball home to make it 1-0.
From that point forward, Kosovo enjoyed control of the game’s tempo and looked every bit the Three Lions’ equal. That is, until Harry Kane finished an open chance at the back post in the 79th minute and opened the floodgates.
Marcus Rashford added a third four minutes later, followed by another first England goal — this time, scored by Mason Mount — in the 91st.
England finishes EURO 2020 qualification with a record of 7W-0D-1L and a +31 goal differential, which is second only to Belgium who sit at +32 with one game still to play. England required Sunday’s victory to confirm its place as a Pot 1 team at the draw for the group stage.
Chelsea’s midfield is banged up, with anchor Jorginho suspended for yellow card accumulation while N’Golo Kante has yet to return from a nagging ankle problem and Mason Mount‘s status is questionable after hobbling off in pain against Ajax midweek. Kante was an unused substitute against Ajax and could be in contention to start in place of Jorginho, but it has been a month since his last appearance and the French international has made just three league starts all year. In addition, Ross Barkley was confirmed to miss the match as the midfield continues to lose bodies.
Still, that seems the only thing in the way of the Blues at the moment, with the club riding high after its wild Champions League comeback midweek that saw them erase a 4-1 second-half deficit and very nearly find the winning stroke. With five straight wins in Premier League play on top of that, this Chelsea team is firing on all cylinders. They have scored 13 goals in those five league victories, and have scored 19 goals in eight matches across all competitions since the start of October.
Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has struggled through a brutal October schedule and hopes the turn to November will lift its fortunes. The Eagles have failed to win over its last three league games, with losses to Manchester City and Leicester City plus a draw with Arsenal. Now Palace draws Chelsea on the road before a home date with Liverpool rounds out an absolutely ruthless five-game stretch.
Still, Roy Hodgson has maintained a top ten standing despite the rut, with the club currently sitting ninth on 15 points, two ahead of Manchester United in 10th. The boss will take charge of his 300th Premier League game at Stamford Bridge, becoming the 15th person and sixth Englishman to reach that milestone.
Chelsea: OUT – Jorginho (suspended), Antonio Rudiger (hip), Ross Barkley (knock), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE – Mason Mount (ankle), N’Golo Kante (ankle).
Chelsea manager Lampard on Ajax draw: “There weren’t too many negatives. Some were freakish and some were on us, goals we don’t like to concede. To come back and to draw the game, we should take the positives. The fans were great. It starts with us.”
Palace boss Hodgson on Lampard: “Frank Lampard has done a very good job, there is no question about that. The club have (also) done a good job in encouraging the manager and his staff to blood some of the players that had previously been out on loan. Everyone at the club deserves a pat on the back for that.”
Chelsea is in good form, but injuries have them a bit out of sorts, and the defensive performance against Ajax was a complete disaster. It’s been that way all season long in Premier League play, with just two clean sheets on the top flight season. Eventually, this will come back to haunt them, and with Mason Mount potentially out, those issues could combine to spell defeat. Meanwhile, Crystal Palace has shown well against good Premier League sides the last few weeks, and they are nearing a big result. The Eagles will bag an upset at Stamford Bridge with an impressive 2-1 win that gets Crystal Palace the signature win it has searched for over this brutal stretch of games, while leaving Frank Lampard with some defensive adjustments to make over the international break.
According to a number of reports from England, young Chelsea talent Mason Mount is readying for his first international start as England gets set to face the Czech Republic in Euro 2020 qualification on Friday.
Mount has two international caps to his name, having come off the bench against Bulgaria and Kosovo in the last international break. He will now make his full debut, a well-earned reward for a stellar Premier League season thus far. The 20-year-old has scored four goals and assisted another through the first eight games of the season and has been one of the most positive attacking influences at Stanford Bridge alongside fellow academy graduate Tammy Abraham.
“Nothing I’ve seen surprises me at all,” England manager Gareth Southgate said of Mount’s play during his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “We’ve had him marked as a player from the first time I saw him at St. George’s [Park]. Chelsea would be the same on that, I think, but of course he’s now been able to have the opportunity to play in the Premier League and display that against top teams. I think you saw his penalty in the Super Cup, [that] was a nice cameo of what he’s about, really.”
Mount is the beneficiary of the withdrawal of James Maddison, who departed the England squad due to an illness, still unable to make his international debut. He will start ahead of Chelsea teammate Ross Barkley, whom Mount has supplanted as the starting attacking midfielder at Stamford Bridge. “I don’t think it matters what our starting three is [in attack],” Southgate said at the press conference while discussing the importance of having depth. “Clearly, at the moment Raheem [Sterling] and Harry [Kane], their numbers are incredible and the consistency of their performance is, but the rest can be down to performance at any given time.”
Mount’s 7.40 WhoScored rating so far through the first eight games of the Premier League season puts him in the top 20 of players in the league and third among English talents behind Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and his Blues teammate Abraham. His 2.1 key passes per game ranks 13th in the league behind high-volume players like Kevin De Bruyne, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Jack Grealish.
The 20-year-old is set to start alongside fellow youngster Jadon Sancho who is reportedly readying for another spot in the lineup after scoring a brace against Kosovo his last time out to mark his first international goals. Sancho also started against the Czech Republic in the reverse fixture back in March, a 5-0 rout that saw him assist Sterling’s 24th minute opener.
Christian Pulisic has gone three Premier League games without seeing the field. An unused substitute again at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea topped Brighton 2-0 on Saturday, the 21-year-old told NBC Sports that his lack of playing time is “very frustrating” and that “it is tough for me right now.”
Frank Lampard is under no obligation to play the American despite his hefty $73 million price tag on the move from Borussia Dortmund over the winter. With that in mind, it’s time to take a look at the performances of his competition at Chelsea and determine whether the Blues boss is making the right decision in keeping Pulisic on the bench.
There seems to be at least four other attacking players above Pulisic in the depth chart: Experienced international wingers Willian and Pedro, and youngsters Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi. Here’s a closer look at each player’s season so far.
The 20-year-old England youth international has exploded onto the scene this campaign, forced into the rotation due to Chelsea’s transfer ban. He has taken his chance marvelously, proving a massive threat to opposition defenses on the ball. The sample size is still small, but Mount is currently rated as WhoScored’s 14th best player so far this season with an impressive 7.45 rating. He has delivered three goals thus far, and has produced over two key passes per game and just under two successful dribbles per game.
Lampard has begun to deploy Mount more centrally, pairing him in midfield with Ross Barkley and allowing him to venture forward. He created three chances against Brighton last time out and won the penalty that saw Jorginho put Chelsea in front just after halftime. There is no doubt that in his current form, Mount should be starting every match for Chelsea at this point, and Pulisic can have no qualms about sitting behind the fellow youngster.
Since arriving from Barcelona in 2015, Pedro has been a versatile player that has seen significant time under a host of different Chelsea managers who have all noticed his value. Playing as a true winger, a central creative force, or a wing-back in various formations, Pedro has been able to contribute in a number of ways.
This season, Pedro has been of decent quality. He started slow against Brighton last time out but ended up with a solid overall performance, testing the goalkeeper a few different times and creating opportunities for his teammates. Still, that was his first league appearances since August and he was withdrawn for Hudson-Odoi after an hour. Lampard doesn’t seem to fully trust the Spaniard. His appearance in the lineup against Brighton instead of Pulisic was probably the most surprising given his lack of playing time thus far, but he proved a valuable asset.
While a hamstring problem carried over from summer international duty limited him early in the season, the 31-year-old Brazilian has seen significant playing time over the last month. Racking up three straight 90-minute showings in a row in league play, Willian is a trusted servant for Frank Lampard early on. Unfortunately, it’s somewhat difficult to determine why.
Aside from the demolition of Wolves in which he was brilliant, the performances have been quite spotty for Willian thus far. While his passing accuracy is 80 percent this season, a closer look shows a host of square passes well outside the box that inflate that total. Against Brighton, Willian added little creativity, especially in the first half when Chelsea as a whole struggled to produce much of anything. Still, he came away with the game’s second goal, a tight-angled strike out of basically nothing that was deflected in and punished poor one-on-one marking and even worse goalkeeping.
Another key part of Willian’s game is his defensive contributions which often can neuter his overall attacking threat. He came away from the Brighton with four completed tackles on the right flank, an impressive total for a winger. A look at his performance in the loss to Liverpool shows he was pinned back by his defensive duties for much of the game, and when he did get forward he was unable to produce much, completing just two of his six attempted passes in the penalty area and failing to come away from the match with an official chance created. Willian is a good squad player, but he hasn’t exactly dazzled in the early going. His fans will say he’s never been a dazzling player, and that’s a fair retort.
Just having returned from an Achilles injury, the 18-year-old is clearly a fabulous talent. With the Blues having rejected Bayern Munich’s advances. There’s a feeling of obligation to play Hudson-Odoi now that Bayern has been rebuffed to confirm the club’s commitment to his future. Still, there’s a reason he sees the field. In 30 minutes against Brighton, he picked up an assist and proved valuable defensively, completing two tackles in two attempts and completing 21 of 24 passes. It wasn’t an inspiring passing chart, but Chelsea was playing with a lead the entire time.
Plenty remains to be seen here how he gets on after returning from injury, but as a huge talent that has already broken into the England senior squad, there’s little reason to think he won’t see a lot of the field.
This is a difficult one to analyze as aside from Mason Mount, there are plenty of question marks remaining among those in front of Pulisic on the depth chart. Willian and Pedro are older, experienced players who don’t light up the field but managers love them for their dedication to the team effort and game plan, while Hudson-Odoi has plenty to prove on his way back from injury but figures to be given the chance to do so.
Given the unknowns, there’s no reason to think Pulisic can’t work his way back up the ranks. Chelsea is clearly committed to youth this season, and there is plenty of incentive to develop Pulisic into a regular contributor given his promise, his age, and the club’s financial commitment. Eventually, it’s logical to think Willian and Pedro will be phased out in favor of the younger attacking players.
Let’s also remember, Christian Pulisic isn’t the only good player struggling for time at Chelsea. Jorginho has proven an improved asset at Stamford Bridge, while Kante has also struggled with injury, the improved play of Jorginho has enabled Lampard to be careful with the French midfielder, confirming Kante missed the Brighton squad with a hamstring problem that left Chelsea to be cautious. Had Jorginho not been playing so well, Kante may have been risked.
While it’s natural to panic over Pulisic’s small workload early on – and certainly frustrating for the player given his phasing out at Dortmund at the hands of Jadon Sancho – it’s not time to push the big red button. Lampard has clearly told Pulisic to improve his training, and nobody but the team knowns what goes on there. All we can judge is what happens on the field, and until someone at Chelsea struggles greatly and deserves to be replaced, it’s tough to see a way back in for Pulisic in the short-term.
N’Golo Kante scored a sensational goal to bring the Blues within one, but Chelsea couldn’t finish several terrific opportunities to tie the match.
Now 6-0, the Reds restored their five-point lead over second place Man City, while the Blues sit 12th with eight points.
The main takeaways
1. Alexander-Arnold at both ends: TAA’s exceptional work in the attacking third is nothing new, and it says something that it comes as little surprise when he produces something sublime like the opening goal off a set piece, but Alexander-Arnold’s goal line clearance in the 68th minute adding some icing to the cake as Chelsea looked pull a goal back from its 2-0 deficit. A fine performance from the right back.
2. Liverpool gets big let-off: Liverpool’s defending and passing was poor over the final 30 minutes or so, and if the Reds have something resembling a weakness it is their overall back line when the opposition is in the Liverpool half. Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount should’ve both troubled Adrian in the latter stages, but were let off the hook by a Chelsea team with only one sub available to it after the break. More on that below.
3. Bats, not the Yank: Frank Lampard opted against starting Christian Pulisic again on Sunday, and two defensive subs in the first 42 minutes meant there was only one left for the second half. Lampard chose target forward Michy Batshuayi over Pulisic, Ross Barkley, and Pedro. Batshuayi drew a free kick upon introduction, and coudn’t flash an opener header on frame in the 88th.
Man of the Match: Firmino, whose steady presence, strong dribbling, and — most importantly — powerful header steadied the match for a time, moments after VAR denied the Blues an equalizer.
Honorable mention: Kante was everywhere, stopping Mohamed Salah‘s long dribble toward goal late as a highlight. Another highlight, this. See ya later Fabinho.
A foul-heavy, physical start yielded a free kick atop the Chelsea 18 after Andreas Christensen got tangled with Sadio Mane.
A training ground play had Salah roll a shot pass for Alexander-Arnold to belt past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute.
An injury to Emerson Palmieri then introduced Marcos Alonso to the match, a 16th minute substitution adding insult to the, well, you know.
Adrian saved Tammy Abraham‘s 1v1 chance in the 24th minute, a misstep from the youngster and great moment for Liverpool’s No. 2 backstop.
Azpilicueta looked to have leveled when he mopped up a sloppy final third performance from the Reds celebrated back line, but VAR ruled Mason Mount as offside.
Liverpool then made it 2-0, adding insult to insult, when unmarked Firmino hammered a header into the goal.
A calamitous first half continued with Christensen waylaid by an injury, as he subbed off for Kurt Zouma. Forty-two minutes in, two subs down.
The game could’ve been effectively put to bed on a 46th minute set piece, but Virgil Van Dijk‘s back post effort tame and allowed Arrizabalaga to make a fine save.
Chelsea found some footing in the second half, and Liverpool was cautioned for time wasting. N’Golo Kante dragged a shot wide in the 59th minute.
Kante was the next man on the score sheet, turning Fabinho and dribbling free into the 18 to blasting a 71st minute effort past Adrian. Game on.
But Batshuayi couldn’t flash a late header on goal, and Mason Mount butchered a difficult near-post chance to make it 2-2 late. Liverpool escaped, and is starting to feel a bit like the dreaded term: Team of Destiny.