Football

5 talking points as Chelsea's Champions League hopes dented by Sheffield United


Sheffield United continued their hunt for European football next season as they beat Chelsea.

David McGoldrick ended his Premier League duck to grab a brace, either side of an Oli McBurnie header.

McGoldrick opened the scoring in the 18th minute in his 450th professional club appearance, with a tap in after keeper Kepa had saved into his path.

Strike partner McBurnie doubled the host’s advantage with a towering header before half time.

Chelsea were livelier after the break but McGoldrick’s second of the evening killed off any chances of a comeback with 13 minutes to go.

The result means the Blues could be overtaken by both Wolves and Manchester United into fourth and fifth later this weekend.


Here are 5 talking points from Bramall Lane…

1. Battle for Europe


Chelsea and Sheffield United should both be gallivanting around Europe like an interrailing teenager next season.

As it stands, the Blues are odds on favourite to be playing the Champions League again – although if Manchester City’s appeal against their UEFA ban is overturned on Monday then the fight is back on.

If CAS do take pity on Pep Guardiola’s men, then there is set to be an almighty last three matches of the season.

Chelsea, currently third, have Leicester and Manchester United breathing down their necks with a game in hand.

The Blades are only six points back, although they will be expecting Europa League rather than Champions League football – not that they’re fussy for their first European voyage.

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All this result did was squidge everything up at the top.

2. Good things come to those that wait


David McGoldrick is 32 years old.

He had played 449 professional club matches for Notts County, Southampton, Bournemouth, Port Vale, Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Coventry, Ipswich and Sheffield United before today.

He has also played for his country, the Republic of Ireland.

But very little will have made McGoldrick more happy than finally notching his first Premier League goal – in fact when presented with an open goal you could see the smile on his face before he tapped in his opener.

Then like a London bus, he had a second.

His is a story for every journeyman Football League player that it can still happen, regardless of your age.

3. Abraham returns


Tammy Abraham is the complete opposite of McGoldrick, in terms of career progression.

While McGoldrick has earned his stripes up and down the Football League, Abraham has had the pressure and reputation of being a Chelsea academy graduate.

That is not a dig at his path, his natural ability shines through and he did the hard yards with loan spells at Bristol City, Swansea and Aston Villa.

This was just his second Premier League start since the return to action, having watched Olivier Giroud nick ahead of him in the pecking order.

He earned his place back after scoring against Crystal Palace.

But at Bramall Lane he was quieter than a mute church mouse.

Overall, Abraham has had a decent first full senior season at the Blues but with arrival of Timo Werner his gametime could be hit hard.

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4. Kepa’s woes continue


A word of advice.

If you were to win £70million in the lottery this weekend and needed a goalkeeper for your garden XI, do not spend it all on Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Save your money. Maybe coax David Seaman out of retirement instead.

Kepa’s mistakes are well versed by this stage, especially among a growingly frustrated Chelsea fanbase, but that is now nine goals shipped in six games since the lockdown ended.

Not quite what you would expect from an elite keeper, nay the most expensive keeper of all-time.

Personally, I’m starting to wonder if he is only between the sticks because someone shouted ‘keeper’ once and he thought they said ‘Kepa’.

Perhaps naturally he is really a striker.

Worth a note here to absolve him of 100 per cent of the blame, as the defenders in front of him are best described as shaky.

It all begs the question, why are Chelsea going all out for attacking players in the transfer market when they have shipped 48 goals this season?

5. The Sheffield Way


You’d think by now that every Premier League manager would know what to expect from the Blades, and how to deal with it – especially with the extra three months to watch and re-watch the tapes.

But no, Frank Lampard’s side still managed to struggled to deal with the overlapping centre backs, regimented defence and deceptively undefensive defensive team.

Chelsea had almost 80 per cent of possession throughout yet you’d be hard pressed to remember an extended portion of the game where they dominated and really looked like scoring.

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Chris Wilder is a tactical genius, and the Blades have their mojo back after a poor restart.





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