Chelsea 3 Huddersfield Town 1: Lampard and Terry prove too good to miss
With three months of the season remaining Chelsea are still going strong in four competitions, but Avram Grant believes he has already negotiated the toughest part of the campaign.
"The most important months have been December and January," the Chelsea manager said after his team's FA Cup fifth-round victory at Stamford Bridge on Saturday. "We missed so many players, but with just 14 or 15 available we stayed in all competitions. We have a big week coming up because we did a fantastic job in those two months."
The safe return of his players from the African Nations Cup will be a particular source of relief during a run of three games in different cup competitions in nine days. Having taken their place in the FA Cup quarter-finals, Chelsea now play Olympiakos in Athens tomorrow in the second round of the Champions League before facing Tottenham Hotspur in next Sunday's Carling Cup final.
The options available to Grant were evident when he named a bench for this match comprising players whose combined transfer fees – Andrei Shevchenko cost £30m, Michael Essien £26m, Ricardo Carvalho £20m and Nicolas Anelka £15m – would probably pay off some national debts. That was without counting Didier Drogba, who was absent with a knee problem but is expected to be available tomorrow.
John Terry's return two weeks ahead of schedule was another bonus. Chelsea's captain played his first game since breaking his foot two months ago and looked in good shape. "He's fantastic," Grant said. "I didn't plan for him to play 90 minutes, only 70, but he was looking so good that I left him on the pitch."
Another of Chelsea's England stalwarts made the crucial difference between the two sides. Frank Lampard scored twice, taking his tally of Chelsea goals to 101, as Huddersfield were repeatedly undone by his speed of thought. By the time Lampard's markers closed him down the 29-year-old midfielder had almost invariably played the ball on and found space elsewhere. Both his goals were the result of perfectly timed runs into the penalty area.
The bare details of the match might suggest that Chelsea had some trouble extending their unbeaten home run to a club record of 59 games, but Huddersfield's equaliser on the stroke of half-time was totally against the run of play. Chelsea's first-half domination, crowned by Lampard's conversion of Scott Sinclair's cross from the right, was overwhelming. Wave after wave of attacks threatened to wash Huddersfield away, with only last-ditch tackles and profligate finishing keeping the League One side afloat.
On 45 minutes, however, a rare attack saw James Berrett chip a clever pass over a static Chelsea back line and into the path of Michael Collins. The midfielder, Huddersfield's most accomplished performer, took a touch before shooting past Carlo Cudicini.
Huddersfield gave as good as they got in the first 15 minutes of the second half but on the hour Chelsea struck again when a slick move sliced open the visiting defence. John Obi Mikel and Salomon Kalou set up Lampard, who beat Matthew Glennon at the second attempt after the goalkeeper parried his first effort. Ten minutes later Lampard sent away Kalou for the goal that killed off any chance of another Huddersfield comeback.
Andy Ritchie, the Yorkshire club's manager, was proud of his team's hard work and delighted that 6,000 travelling supporters had something to cheer. "The goal gave us a real lift at half-time and I thought we came out in the second half and looked very dangerous in the first 15 minutes," he said. "We knew it was going to be a massive task, but the lads have not disgraced themselves."
Ritchie described Lampard as "top-notch" and added: "He has great drive and vision. He's so quick with the ball at his feet. As a team Chelsea moved the ball around at such pace that our players were constantly being stretched."
No wonder Chelsea will be keen to reopen negotiations on a contract extension for Lampard, who has postponed discussions until the summer. "The club wants him and he says he wants to stay at the club," Grant said. "I think he will stay at Chelsea. I don't see any other scenario."
Goals: Lampard (18) 1-0; Collins (45) 1-1; Lampard (60) 2-1; Kalou (70) 3-1.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Ferreira, Ben Haim, Terry, Bridge; Sidwell (Shevchenko, 75), Mikel, Lampard (Essien, 81); S Sinclair, Pizarro (Anelka, 85), Kalou. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Carvalho.
Huddersfield Town (4-4-2): Glennon; F Sinclair, Clarke, Page, Williams; Collins, Holdsworth, Berrett (Schofield, 85), Brandon; Jevons (Kamara, 73), Beckett (Booth, 80). Substitutes not used: Eastwood (gk), Mirfin.
Referee: M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear).
Man of the match: Lampard.
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