Football Features

Abraham continues to prove doubters wrong: Winners and losers from Lille 1-2 Chelsea

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:17, 2 October 2019

Chelsea earned their first Champions League win of the season, beating Lille 2-1 in France.

Tammy Abraham gave the Blues the lead midway through the first half but Victor Osimhen equalised for the home side 10 minutes later. But Chelsea would score once more, with Willian getting the winner towards the end of the game.

But who were the biggest winners and losers?

Winner: Tammy Abraham

Remember when they said Tammy Abraham wasn’t good enough to lead the line for Chelsea? Remember when they brought up the No.9 curse at Stamford Bridge?

The English striker had started the 2019/20 campaign well, his first as Chelsea’s starting striker, scoring seven goals in seven Premier League games with only Sergio Aguero managing more. However, since scoring a hat-trick against Wolves, he had drawn a blank in his past three appearances including a 1-0 Champions League defeat at home to Valencia.

But, in the 22nd minute of this match on his 22nd birthday, Abraham broke his goalscoring duck with his first ever Champions League goal – taking his total tally for the season to eight in 10 games.

It was a good finishing from Chelsea’s No.9, as he controlled Fikayo Tomori’s pass well inside the box, before sorting out his feet to finish coolly past goalkeeper Mike Maignan, all while remaining onside thanks to Reinildo Mandava.

If reports are to be believed, Abraham will be rewarded for his fine form with an England call-up for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Should he be called up and play, Abraham will be tied to England ending links of a switch to Nigeria for whom he qualifies through his father.

Loser: Frank Lampard

Chelsea fans must have been hoping Saturday’s first clean sheet of the season against Brighton would have signalled the Blues turning a page. Unfortunately, on Wednesday night, Frank Lampard’s team reverted to type.

Despite controlling the game for large parts and winning, Chelsea looked uncomfortable defensively and susceptible to conceding throughout, particularly from set pieces. It came as no surprise then, when Lille equalised from a corner. Yes, Bamba’s ball into the box was excellent, as was Osimhen’s header, but the Blues let themselves down with their marking – with zonal failing once more.

It was the 17th goal Chelsea have conceded in 10 games across all competitions this season and only gave Lille more confidence of getting another from a set piece. And the hosts went close on other occasions from deadball scenarios, with Chelsea riding their luck at times. But this doesn’t seem to be down to Chelsea’s youthful defensive players. It may just be a Lampard thing.

Since the former Chelsea midfielder made the switch to management with Derby County in 2018, Lamaprd has overseen 68 games across all competitions. In that time, Lampard’s teams for Derby and Chelsea have managed to keep just 15 clean sheets – a 22% success rate – while conceding 103 goals.

With top-level football being as punishing as it is, this is a record Chelsea and Lampard must look to improve on.

Winner: Victor Osimhen

Should Abraham get the England call up and pledge his career to the Three Lions, Nigeria really shouldn’t worry as they have a perfect alternative.

Victor Osimhen, 20, has been in good form for Lille in Ligue 1 this season, leading the goalscoring charts with six goals while also adding a further two assists – no player as been directly involved in more goals in France’s top flight. And, like Abraham, Osimhen transfered that form over to the Champions League on Wednesday night.

With Lille applying some pressure to a fragile Chelsea defence, Jonathan Bamba sent a pinpoint corner into the box and there was Osimhen to rise highest above Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori to equalise with a strong header.

It took his tally for the season to seven goals in all competitions, all of which have come at Lille’s Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Across teams in Europe’s top five leagues, only Andrea Belotti has scored more home goals across all competitions than Osimhen, with the Italian grabbing eight for Torino.

And the 20-year-old – who was compared to a young Emmanuel Adebayor by Joe Cole – only improved after the goal, constantly hassling the Blues defence particularly focussing on Zouma and Cesar Azpilicueta.

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Losers: Christian Pulisic & Ross Barkley

While Chelsea’s academy products have been shining under Lampard this season, Christian Pulisic has had to watch on frustrated.

The £58m signing is yet to really get going at Chelsea so far, finding himself behind the likes of Mason Mount, Pedro, Willian and now Callum Hudson-Odoi for the forward spots in Lampard’s team. Pulisic was an unused substitute in four of the past five Chelsea games with his only minutes coming in the Carabao Cup win over Grimsby, but on Wednesday he didn’t even make the bench.

Then there’s the curious case of Ross Barkley. The English midfielder was one of Chelsea’s best players in pre-season and many had tipped this to be a defining campaign for the 25-year-old. But he just hasn’t had the impact yet, with Mount outshining the former Everton man.

Barkley had been labeled “naive” by Chelsea manager Lampard in the build up to Wednesday’s game after being picture in a row with a taxi driver on Sunday night, and although the midfielder did travel to France with the Blues squad, like Pulisic, there was no place for him in the matchday squad. He may have some work to do to reclaim his place.

Winner: Willian

Willian is a polarising figure at Stamford Bridge, but the Brazilian once again turned up in the Champions League when Chelsea needed it.

Making his 300th appearance for the club on Wednesday night, Willian was one of the experienced heads on the pitch amid a sea of youth including four academy graduates in the starting XI.

Immediately he was causing problems, linking up well with wing-back Reece James down the right-hand side while also looking to cut inside. While not near the Belgian’s level at his best, Willian was looking like the Eden Hazard replacement Chelsea had hoped him to be when bestowing the No.10 jersey on him.

And, as Hazard had done so many times in the past, Willian was the match winner for Chelsea in a game that had looked to be ending in a draw, scoring with a wonderful volley from Callum Hudson-Odoi’s cross.

It was Willian’s second goal in as many games after netting against Brighton at the weekend, another goal assisted by Hudson-Odoi, and took him to 10 Champions League strikes in total for Chelsea. Adding on five assists, no Chelsea player has been directly involved in more Champions League goals than Willian’s 15 since the Brazilian signed in September 2013.

Loser: Lille’s fans

Lille fans were excellent on Wednesday night, ensuring the Stade Pierre-Mauroy was a cauldron of noise throughout.

But once again they had to watch on powerless as Lille failed to win at Europe’s top level. It is now nine Champions League home games since Lille last won, with AEK Athens falling 3-1 in October 2006.

Since then, Lille have drawn three and lost six, scoring six and conceding 12 goals. And things don’t exactly get easier for the French side with Valencia and Ajax still to visit the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.