The Blues icon came back to Stamford Bridge and almost caused a stunning upset with the Rams, who ultimately ended on the losing sideA hero’s welcome awaited Frank Lampard as he strode back into the club where he ranks as a legendary figure, and the Derby County coach came close to causing Chelsea a Halloween nightmare.
Chants from all sections of the ground throughout the stadium were accompanied by banners from the Matthew Harding end in Wednesday’s Carabao Cup tie, as Lampard acknowledged the crowd for their support.
Lampard gave everything to Chelsea and they gave it back, in recognition of a career that yielded 211 goals in 648 appearances, saw him lift 11 major honours and almost win the Ballon d’Or, coming second to Ronaldinho back in 2005.
However, his football life has switched over into a new chapter and his side can count themselves unlucky after being edged out in a 3-2 defeat in west London.
Derby had yet to have a shot on target registered against them as they found themselves 2-1 down, with own goals from Fikayo Tomori and Richard Keogh cancelling out an earlier strike from Chelsea fan Jack Marriott.
Chelsea’s loanees were involved in goals at both ends. After Tomori’s own goal Mason Mount provided a cross for Martyn Waghorn to level, leaving Maurizio Sarri raging again at the state of his defence.
Lampard was true to his word and refused to celebrate, only nodding in approval as the equaliser came. He then watched the man who replaced him at the club, Cesc Fabregas, emulated the type of strike that he made his name with to make it 3-2 before half-time.
His side spent long periods of the game without the ball but they competed against the FA Cup holders, who are yet to taste defeat this season.
Lampard’s side were able to win the ball high up the pitch and produce direct possession to their pacey wingers, who caused all kinds of problems for Chelsea’s second string defence.
Chelsea have played more one-sided matches in the Premier League and Europe this season and Lampard and his coaching team, which includes Jody Morris and Chris Jones – who signed from Chelsea in the summer – can hold their heads up high.
The Blues’ decision to allow Mount and Tomori a chance to play at Stamford Bridge gave them the chance to see what their future might be, as they try to develop to get to the next level.
Similarly in the dugout, Lampard is in the early stages of a career that could take him to the top once again. Derby are an ambitious club and can be a great platform for Lampard and co, but the onlooking Chelsea directors may dream of seeing one of the club’s greatest players return to manage.
Chelsea were struggling to hang on to get their name in the quarter-final draw of the Carabao Cup with Marriott dangerous time and time again in the second half. Mount also went close late on and the huge travelling support bounced with pride throughout the 90 minutes.
Sarri needed to throw the big guns of Pedro, David Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta on in the second half to dull Derby’s resistance, acknowledging the danger posed by the Championship’s sixth-placed club.
Lampard’s Derby beat Manchester United and with luck, could have come out on top against another top-six Premier League team.
Indeed, if veteran striker David Nugent’s 89th minute effort had nestled just inside the post instead of bouncing off the woodwork, Lampard would have forced an unwanted extra 30 minutes and perhaps penalties on his beloved Blues.
The size of the challenge to beat Chelsea was huge for Derby, with no win here since 1983 and no clean sheet since Peter Shilton’s blank in 1987.
Super Frank almost accomplished it and, like his wonderkids in his side, he is showing the potential in his early career and he could become a top level manager.
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