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Lille vs Chelsea: Willian hits winner as Frank Lampard gets Champions League win

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A first Champions League win for Frank Lampard to secure Chelsea’s footing in the group but, just as importantly, some much needed consistency in terms of results.

This was three wins in a row and while that’s a small thing from a small sample, it will gradually foster a sense of cohesion and togetherness in this young team. It certainly reflected a growing character.

They were admittedly helped in this 2-1 win by the fact they were playing an even more inexperienced side in Lille. That was fortunate, as the lingering chaos that has characterised their play in recent weeks remains.

Many of their games follow the same pattern: Chelsea displaying a promising shape, and enjoy an encouraging pattern of play from that, but they remain loose and find themselves with as many opportunities to lose the game as win it.

And so, in typical fashion, this match ended with a late scare, but before then it had effectively been decided by the introduction of a player of proper quality: Callum Hudson-Odoi.

He came off the bench, and came up with the piece of brilliance to set up Willian’s winner.

Such a hard-fought win felt as important for the very development of this team as it did for their hopes in this Champions League group.

Chelsea do have that sense of a team finding themselves, and finding out more about their teammates at this level with every game, as suggested in so many promising moves. The opening goal was a case in point.

N’Golo Kante picked out Fikayo Tomori on the edge of the box, he played a fine through ball for Abraham, and the striker – inexplicably played on by Reinildo Mandava – turned intricately to finish.

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There were a few moments like this, where a quick exchange would open up a lot of the pitch.

Some of that here, admittedly, was down to the corresponding youth of the Lille team. They were as open as Chelsea at the back, if in a different way.

Whereas Lille could be pierced with open play, they quickly realised how vulnerable Chelsea were to set-pieces. The simplicity was striking.

After forcing Lille’s tricky forwards – especially Luiz Araujo – to work so hard to actually fashion chances from play, Chelsea just gave them up from the consequent corners. Victor Osimhen had three players around him alone, and yet still at least a yard of space, to head in the equaliser on 33 minutes. His purported marker Kurt Zouma attempted a jump, but not much of a challenge, as Osimhen had an almost completely free header.

Osimhen struck for Lille (AP)

He certainly faced little physical contact as he plundered the header.

Benjamin Andre almost benefitted from similar marking shortly after half-time, Kepa Arrizabalaga pulling off one of a few good saves in this game.

It is becoming a real trend, and one of Lampard’s main flaws as a manager, a problem that clearly needs to be sorted out.

Chelsea did have another problem in this game, but it was one that came from one of Lampard’s main strengths.

This was a vital win for Lampard (Reuters)

He has a capacity for impressive tactical versatility and variability and here returned to a 3-4-3 with two – Jorginho and Kante – in the middle. While it initially saw them create some good openings, and promisingly exciting moves, Lille quickly realised they were also vulnerable on the flanks. There was so much space in behind, that it left Lampard with little choice but to change it back.

And while that was a problem here, it is really a strength for the future.

Lampard has no real fixed side, which makes Chelsea difficult to pin down and figure out, but impressively fluid.

The introduction of one particular sub, then, made them even more fluid.

Willian scored the winner (Getty)

Hudson-Odoi continued his gradual return from injury, and immediately gave Chelsea more penetration, as well as – of course – setting up the winner.

Pinning Zeki Celik back with his own running, the winger used a sudden opening by the side-line to whip in one of those deep crosses that just shouldn’t have been capable of sitting up for Willian as invitingly as it did.

The Brazilian was left to just make contact, and make it 2-1.

Chelsea continue to make strides, even if there remain a few stutters.

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