Lampard shuffles pack and comes up trumps with a winner in Barkley
No wonder it was Chelsea and Frank Lampard who had campaigned for nine substitutes to be allowed on the bench when football restarted after the shutdown.
And, according to Lampard, he would have used all nine if allowed following what he claimed was Chelsea’s worst 45 minutes of the season. But a treble change at halftime proved to be enough as, for the second time in Chelsea’s three games since the restart, Lampard used his bench to devastating effect to guide his team into the semifinals of the FA Cup.
A week earlier, it had been Christian Pulisic who stepped off the bench to score against Aston Villa, and at the King Power Stadium it was Ross Barkley who changed the game. Barkley was one of the three substitutions as Lampard hooked Mason Mount, Billy Gilmour and Reece James, and gave his team a half-time rocket.
“I don’t think we have played that badly this season for 45 minutes,” said Lampard. “We have played better than that and lost. We were lucky not to be losing at halftime. There were a few words. The first half was not what we are used to in terms of our performance. We lacked urgency and intensity. I made three subs, but it could have been seven or eight, and different subs. But I made the changes I did for impact and personality, and we turned it around.”
Lampard had consoling words
Impact: Ross Barkley made a big difference from the bench again with the winning goal for Mount, Gilmour and James. “I could have made different changes. They will be top players for this club no matter what,” said Lampard.
Brendan Rodgers will know his Leicester team should have put the visitors away in the first half and must now make sure they cling on to Champions League qualification, having yet to win since the restart.
Jamie Vardy missed a good chance and the fact Leicester have scored only one goal on their return is clearly an area of concern. Another worry are reports that the city could face a localised lockdown due to the number of coronavirus cases. Premier League clubs can use neutral venues if they have to and Rodgers said: “As a club, we’re very much still in a bubble. The players are tested twice a week. A lot of them don’t live in the central Leicester area. You are always concerned but we are in a position here where we’re very much protected, so that gives you the confidence to continue with your work.”
The way in which Lampard coached his team through the firsthalf drinks break underlined the slow and sloppy start Chelsea made.
The break came at just the right time for Chelsea, who had only threatened through in-form Pulisic at that point. But for all their slight improvement after the drinks break, Chelsea survived two let-offs just before the interval.
First, Vardy pulled a shot wide and then the striker saw a header deflected out of play. Lampard clearly was not in the mood to see if things improved after the break, as he made his treble substitution by sending on Barkley, Mateo Kovacic and Cesar Azpilicueta. Chelsea immediately upped the pace and Tammy Abraham had the ball in the net in the 55th minute, following a smart Pulisic pass, but he was correctly judged to have been offside.
Rodgers made a couple of changes of his own in response to Chelsea’s improvement, with Marc Albrighton and Hamza Choudhury offering fresh legs, but it was Barkley who opened the scoring.
It was in the 63rd minute that Willian swapped passes with Azpilicueta before delivering a teasing cross that Barkley was able to sidefoot volley past Kasper Schmeichel for his third FA Cup goal of the season. Barkley should have added a second to kill the tie, but Lampard has been delighted with the midfielder’s form.
“His attitude has been spot on and he was unlucky not to start against Villa, but he made an impact in that game and has impacted the next two games as well,” he said. “I’ve got lots of time for Ross, he is a big player for us.”