Chelsea Edge Past Lille, Qualify For Champions League Last 16

Chelsea’s Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta (R) celebrates after scoring their second goal during the UEFA Champion’s League Group H football match between Chelsea and Lille at Stamford Bridge in London on December 10, 2019.
Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea booked their place in the last 16 of the Champions League as first-half goals from Tammy Abraham and Cesar Azpilicueta sealed a 2-1 win over a much-changed Lille at Stamford Bridge.

Victory for Valencia over Ajax in the other game in Group H means Frank Lampard’s men go through behind the Spaniards with last season’s semi-finalists relegated to the Europa League.

Chelsea knew victory would take them into the knockout stages no matter what the outcome was in Amsterdam and did their job early on against a Lille side with just one point to show for their return to the Champions League for the first time in seven years.

READ ALSO: Liverpool Survive Salzburg Test To Reach Champions League Last 16

Simple finishes from Abraham and Azpilicueta were just reward for a dominant first-half display, but Chelsea were forced to hold on in the final stages after Loic Remy halved Lille’s deficit against his old club 12 minutes from time.

The visitors were already sure to finish bottom of the group and coach Christophe Galtier showed his priority is trying to secure a return to the Champions League next season by finishing in the top three of Ligue 1 as he made seven changes to the side that beat Brest on Friday.

Chelsea had won just one of their previous five games after a great start to life under Lampard and the Blues boss responded by adding a little more experience to what has been a very young side so far this season.

Antonio Rudiger returned from injury to make just his second start of the campaign at centre-back, while Jorginho was restored in midfield to the side that lost 3-1 to Everton on Saturday.

Up front, Abraham was again flanked by Christian Pulisic and Willian, and all three combined to open the scoring on 19 minutes.

Pulisic unselfishly played in Willian on the right instead of opting to go for goal himself and the Brazilian’s driven cross was tapped in by Abraham for his 13th goal of the season.

Lille have been the whipping boys in a three-way shootout for two places in the last 16 and showed why 10 minutes before half-time when Azpilicueta was left completely unmarked to head home Emerson’s corner from close range.

Mike Maignan in the Lille goal kept his side in the game with a fine double save from Pulisic and Willian at the start of the second half.

However, Chelsea took their foot off the gas as Lampard replaced Pulisic and Abraham ahead of a busy festive period in the Premier League.

And the hosts had to suffer a nervy final dozen minutes when Remy fired in off the underside of the bar.

Remy was a peripheral figure during three seasons at Chelsea between 2014 and 2017, but nearly came back to haunt his old employers only to fire weakly into the arms of Kepa Arrizabalaga in stoppage time.

Instead, Chelsea saw the game out to mark another impressive milestone in Lampard’s first season in charge.

AFP

Lampard Backs Abraham To Score For England

 

Frank Lampard has backed Tammy Abraham to score regularly for England after his impressive start to the season for Chelsea was rewarded with a call-up to the national squad.

The 22-year-old was named in Gareth Southgate’s squad for this month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria alongside Blues teammates Ross Barkley, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori on Thursday.

Abraham has eight goals in 10 appearances this season and Chelsea manager Lampard is pleased to see him back in the England squad after two previous friendly appearances in 2017.

“Everyone knows his form’s really good. I think he’s been in the equation probably for Gareth all season because of how he’s played and it’s a natural progression for him,” Lampard said at his pre-match press conference on Friday.

“I’m delighted for him. I know he’s a proud lad, as he should be proud to get a call-up.”

Abraham had flirted with switching his international allegiance to Nigeria, a country he qualifies for through his father, but will be committed to England if he appears in either forthcoming qualifier.

Lampard, whose Chelsea side travel to Southampton on Sunday, was cautious not to load too much pressure on the young forward’s shoulders.

“I think he has all the attributes to go there and be successful but it will be another step for him and I’m sure he has those attributes. I’m sure he has the attitude to take that challenge of being a goalscorer for England,” he said.

“And there’s competition there. When he steps into the squad he’ll see that there are great strikers in that squad already around him so it’s a good challenge for Tammy.”

While Abraham’s selection was expected, especially with the forward eligible for Nigeria, the inclusion of 21-year-old defender Tomori was more of a surprise.

Lampard, who was Derby boss last season, described the former Derby loanee as a “dream to work with” during the past 15 months they have spent together.

“It’s a great step up and it’s in his hands to go there and show what he shows us every day,” he said.

AFP

Kanu Asks Nigeria To ‘Move On; After Missing Out On Abraham, Tomori

Former Nigeria captain Nwankwo Kanu has told the Super Eagles to shrug off the disappointment of seeing Chelsea stars Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori called up by England.

Gareth Southgate rewarded the pair for their fine start to the season by naming them in his squad for Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria later this month.

Kanu insisted that Nigeria should “move on” and still had enough top players to cope with missing out on the two Premier League stars.

“That’s football and I think we have enough quality and we can win matches without them,” he said.

“We can’t continue to beg one player to play for us. Nigeria cannot beg, players have to beg Nigeria.”

Abraham, 22, who has won two caps for the Three Lions in friendlies against Brazil and Germany in 2017, had flirted with switching his international allegiance to the country who he qualifies for through his father.

Centre-back Tomori, 21, is also eligible to represent Nigeria and Canada at the international level.

Nigeria Football Federation officials had repeatedly tried to convince Abraham to change his international allegiance but he looks set to slip through their grasp by playing a competitive match for England.

In the past the Super Eagles have convinced players like Victor Moses and Sone Aluko, who played for England at youth level, to represent the West African nation.

AFP

Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori Earn England Squad Call-Ups

Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham (R) celebrates with Fikayo Tomori after scoring his team’s first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between Lille and Chelsea, on October 02, 2019 at the Pierre Mauroy stadium, in Lille, France. PHOTO: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

 

Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori were rewarded for a fine start to the season under Frank Lampard with a call-up to the England squad on Thursday for Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

Abraham, who has won two caps for the Three Lions before in friendlies against Brazil and Germany in 2017, had flirted with switching his international allegiance to Nigeria, who he qualifies for through his father.

However, the 22-year-old, who scored his first Champions League goal for the Blues in a 2-1 win in Lille on Wednesday, now looks set to declare for England.

Abraham has scored seven times in seven Premier League games so far this season.

Tomori has also shone at centre-back for Chelsea after playing under Lampard on loan at Derby last season.

The emergence of a host of young players, though, has come at the expense of some of the stars of a run to the World Cup semi-finals 15 months ago.

Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli and Kyle Walker have all been left out.

The Three Lions travel to face the Czech Republic in Prague on October 11 before a trip to Sofia to take on Bulgaria four days later.

England are in a commanding position to qualify for next year’s European championships after winning all four of their opening qualifers.

Squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Nick Pope (Burnley), Tom Heaton (Aston Villa), Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez (both Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Danny Rose (Tottenham), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid/ESP), Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Ross Barkley, Mason Mount (both Chelsea), Jordan Henderson, Declan Rice (West Ham), Harry Winks (Tottenham), James Maddison (Leicester), Fabian Delph (Everton)

Forwards: Tammy Abraham (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford, (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth).

AFP

Abraham’s Double Fire Chelsea To First Win Under Lampard

Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham (R) shoots to score his second goal, Chelsea’s third during the English Premier League football match between Norwich City and Chelsea at Carrow Road in Norwich, eastern England on August 24, 2019. Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

Tammy Abraham fired Chelsea to their first win of the Frank Lampard era as the young striker’s double clinched a 3-2 victory against Norwich on Saturday.

Lampard had gone three games without a win in all competitions since he took over as Chelsea manager, but the Blues legend finally got off the mark thanks to his faith in Abraham.

Abraham had failed to score in his three previous appearances this term, but the 21-year-old striker bagged his first goal for the club to put Chelsea ahead in the sunshine at Carrow Road.

READ ALSO: Zidane Asks Bale To Show Why He Is One Of World Best Players

A pulsating encounter saw Todd Cantwell equalise for Norwich before Mason Mount restored Chelsea’s advantage.

Teemu Pukki’s fifth goal in three games this season brought Norwich back on level terms before half-time, only for Abraham to give Chelsea the points with his predatory second half finish.

After a thrashing at Manchester United and a draw with Leicester in Chelsea’s first two Premier League matches, Lampard will have been encouraged by the displays of Abraham and Mount.

He has pinned his hopes on the youngsters to lead Chelsea through a potentially difficult season that sees the club under a transfer ban and without their best player following Eden Hazard’s move to Real Madrid.

While Chelsea have now conceded nine goals in four games in all competitions under Lampard, the former England midfielder will hope his team’s attacking potential keeps them afloat.

When Pedro suffered a hamstring injury in the warm-up and was replaced by Ross Barkley, it left Lampard to send out the youngest start league line-up for Chelsea in 25 years at an average age of 24 years and 208 days.

Abraham was one of the youngsters Lampard had backed to shine as he replaced Olivier Giroud after being benched against Leicester last weekend.

Subjected to racist abuse on social media after missing the penalty which saw Chelsea lose the European Super Cup penalty shoot-out against Liverpool recently, Abraham took just three minutes to reward Lampard for his decision.

Cesar Azpilicueta whipped over a precise cross and Abraham alertly drifted away from the Norwich defence to drill a fine first-time strike past Tim Krul from 10 yards.

 Touchline celebrations 

Abraham, who flourished on loan at second tier Aston Villa last season, celebrated by sprinting to the touchline to hug Lampard as the pair were mobbed by their team-mates.

Three minutes later, Chelsea’s creaky defence was exposed by Emiliano Buendia’s burst into the penalty area.

Buendia found Pukki, fresh from last weekend’s hat-trick against Newcastle, and this time the prolific Finland striker was the provider with a low cross that Cantwell turned in from close-range.

Lampard’s team responded in the 17th minute when Norwich were caught in possession outside their own area and Christian Pulisic fed Mount, the 20-year-old midfielder cutting inside and firing home for his second goal of the season.

Andreas Christensen’s point-blank header was superbly pushed over by Krul and Norwich were back on level terms in the 31st minute.

Buendia played a pass to Pukki and, with Chelsea’s defenders slow to react, the former Celtic forward demonstrated why he has taken the Premier League by storm with an angled shot that evaded Kepa Arrizabalaga’s limp attempt to save.

Mount and Pulisic were both narrowly off target, while Azpilicueta sliced over and Emerson shot straight at Krul as Chelsea pressed hard after the interval.

Azpilicueta appealed in vain for a penalty after a challenge from Marco Stiepermann, but Chelsea’s pressure was rewarded in the 68th minute.

Picked out by Mateo Kovacic, Abraham left Grant Hanley and Jamal Lewis in his wake as he jinked past the Norwich defenders before slamming a fierce strike past Krul’s mistimed dive.

Norwich’s Ben Godfrey headed against the bar moments later, while Chelsea were denied a fourth goal when Kurt Zouma’s effort was disallowed by VAR for Giroud’s foul on Krul.

AFP

Abraham Has No Regrets About Nigeria Snub

England’s Tammy Abraham. Photo: Paul ELLIS / AFP

New England call-up Tammy Abraham says he never considered playing for Nigeria at international level despite repeated overtures from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF).

Abraham’s father is Nigerian and a childhood friend of Nigerian federation president Amaju Pinnick, who claimed in September that Abraham had decided to play for the West African country.

But Abraham, an England Under-21 international, denied the claim and having been called up for England’s forthcoming friendlies against Germany and Brazil, the striker is not entertaining second thoughts.

“I see myself as being a long-term England player,” Abraham, 20, told reporters at England’s St George’s Park training base in Burton-on-Trent, central England on Monday.

“That is where my main focus is and I am 100 percent focused here to try and get into that team.

“I was pretty set on England really and playing in the Premier League meant it would be nice to play in the England team as well.”

Abraham is on loan at Swansea City from Chelsea and has scored five goals in his first 14 appearances for the Welsh club.

Asked about Nigeria’s interest, he said: “It was flattering, but for me, my main focus was here. It was nice to know that I was doing something right and going in the right direction.”

England plays world champions Germany at Wembley on Friday and tackle Brazil at the same venue on November 14 as they launch their preparations for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

AFP

Nigeria Put Abraham Snub Behind Them

Tammy Abraham

Nigeria have moved on since Swansea City striker Tammy Abraham opted to play for England even though they are shopping for strikers since qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) Amaju Pinnick spoke of a “positive” meeting in London with the young striker, whose father is Nigerian, and his agent to change his international allegiance to Nigeria after he has represented England at age-grade levels.

However, just hours after that announcement, Abraham himself put out a statement saying he will consider a future with England instead.

Super Eagles coach Gernot Rohr has now said he is not bothered the England U21 striker will not consider a future with Nigeria.

Read Also: Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham Rejects Nigeria Links  

Abraham has scored four goals in the Premier League this season for Swansea on his loan deal from champions Chelsea.

“Rohr is not losing sleep over Tammy Abraham’s decision to play for England instead of Nigeria,” said Eagles spokesman Toyin Ibitoye.

“Things might change in the future, but the man is not worried over Tammy’s decision and won’t be losing sleep over him.

“The coach is focused on looking for players who are ready to play for Nigeria out of their own volition.

“He said he is looking for players who are ready to give him 200 percent when they play for the national team.”

Last month Chelsea’s Ola Aina, switched allegiance to Nigeria after he has played for England in age-grade levels.

He made his official debut against Zambia earlier this month.

And in recent times, Victor Moses and William Troost-Ekong also changed their international allegiances.

AFP

Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham Rejects Nigeria Links

Chelsea and England Under-21 striker Tammy Abraham has rejected reports he wants to switch his international allegiance to Nigeria.

Abraham, who has also represented England at Under- 18 and Under-19 level, was born in London but is also eligible to play for Nigeria through his father.

The Chelsea striker who is currently on loan at Swansea, admits meeting president of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, after the swans’ goalless draw with Tottenham at Wembley last weekend.

But insuations he made decision to change his international representation is incorrect and wide of the mark.