Sheffield United continued their push for European qualification as they moved into the Premier League’s top six with a convincing win over in-form Chelsea at Bramall Lane.
David McGoldrick’s first Premier League goal opened the scoring, pouncing after Kepa Arrizabalaga had saved brilliantly from a deflected Oli McBurnie shot in the 18th minute.
Chelsea’s defence was shaky throughout and they were ruthlessly punished just 15 minutes later when Enda Stevens crossed and McBurnie was left completely unmarked in the six-yard box to power home a simple header.
The damage was completed when McGoldrick capitalised on a dreadful defensive mix-up to plunder his second late in the second half.
The visitors had scored the most number of away goals in the Premier League before this match, including three at Crystal Palace in midweek, but never looked like adding to their tally.
Manager Chris Wilder has drawn many plaudits this season for Sheffield United’s organisation and team ethic, their desire to keep the ball out of their net a telling contrast to the fragility of their illustrious visitors.
If Leicester City and Manchester United win their games in hand against Bournemouth and Southampton respectively, Champions League-chasing Chelsea, currently third, could find themselves in fifth when next in action against Norwich on Tuesday.
Reward at last for McGoldrick
McGoldrick was named Sheffield United’s player of the year in 2019 as he scored 15 times in their successful promotion campaign, but until now has had no luck in front of goal in the Premier League.
He will, however, be a very popular goalscorer among Blades fans who appreciate the hunger and work ethic he brings to every performance.
And, despite that lack of goals, his sharpness was in evidence when he pounced midway through the first half.
Mason Mount lost the ball for Chelsea, Kepa somehow kept out McBurnie’s deflected volley but McGoldrick followed up to lash home the opening goal.
He then got a well-deserved second with 13 minutes to go as his driving run created an opening and he was in the right place to bury the loose ball.
His strike partner McBurnie had scored United’s second with a powerful header before half-time and substitute Lys Mousset should have made it four when he raced clear but clipped past the post.
This was United’s 10th home win of an outstanding season and Wilder’s side are a good bet to secure European football at Bramall Lane for the first time in their 130-year history.
No defence for Chelsea
Chelsea had plundered 36 goals in their 17 matches away from Stamford Bridge in 2019/20 and Christian Pulisic, Willian and Olivier Giroud were in excellent form coming into this game.
But their leaky defence has caused them problems throughout this season and once again it was far too easy for their opponents to score.
After Mount had failed to clear in the run-up to the opening goal, for the second, Willian allowed Stevens to escape down the left before centre-backs Andreas Christensen and Kurt Zouma went missing and McBurnie capitalised.
Both Christensen and Mount were replaced at half-time as manager Frank Lampard tried to wrest back control of the game.
Giroud came off the bench as well but Sheffield United boast the Premier League’s third meanest defence and they comfortably kept Chelsea at arm’s length throughout the second half.
Indeed, it was another horrible error from the Chelsea backline that led to the home side’s third, substitute Antonio Rudiger screwing a clearance into the path of McGoldrick.
Lampard’s team have now shipped 49 goals this season, compared with the 27 conceded by title winners Liverpool.
After Norwich at home, Chelsea travel to Anfield to face the champions before wrapping up the season at home to fellow European hopefuls Wolves.
It could be a very tight finish for the Champions League spots.
Man of the Match – David McGoldrick (Sheffield United)
Home comforts for the Blades – the stats
- Sheffield United have won four consecutive home top-flight matches for the first time since March 1991, when they had a run of six consecutive wins at Bramall Lane under Dave Bassett
- Chelsea have lost 11 Premier League games this season, at least two more than any other team currently in the top-eight of the division and their most in a season since 2015-16 (12)
- Sheffield United registered their biggest victory over Chelsea since April 1967, when they also won 3-0 at home against the Blues in a top-flight meeting
- This was Chelsea’s heaviest Premier League defeat since Frank Lampard’s first game in charge against Manchester United, when the Blues were beaten 4-0
- McGoldrick and McBurnie scored for Sheffield United, only the second time two players whose surnames start with “Mc” have scored for a team in a Premier League game along with Wigan Athletic against West Brom in May 2013, who saw Callum McManaman and James McArthur on the scoresheet that day
- Chelsea have shipped 33 away Premier League goals this season, their joint-most in a season (also 33 in 1993-94, 1994-95 and 1996-97)
- After a run of eight consecutive Premier League matches scoring at least two goals in each match, Chelsea failed to score for the first time since losing 2-0 to Man Utd in February
- Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has conceded 42 Premier League goals this season – the only Blues keeper to concede more goals in a single season is Dmitri Kharine in 1993-94 (48)
‘Better than us in every way’ – what they said
Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder, speaking to Sky Sports: “To turn Tottenham, Wolves and Chelsea over three games on the spin, you have to be at your maximum. Today we were outstanding in both penalty areas. We’ve got some good players who want to defend with an identity and put their bodies on the line. And we’ve had something going forward too. You don’t get to this position by just sitting on the crossbar.”
Sheffield United striker David McGoldrick: “Thirty-five games in and the table doesn’t lie. That was us at our best today. I said in the press I wasn’t concerned that I hadn’t scored. The goals were coming as I have had chances. I hope there is many more to come as it means the world to me.”
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard: “They were better than us physically, in the mind and with the ball. So you lose the game. They were stronger than us. You feel and hear every noise and all I could hear was Sheffield United voices. They are a good team. If you come here and perform below par this is what will happen.
“I am concerned with how we performed. I learned a lot today. We need to put that to bed and fight for the top four.”
Sheffield United could do Chelsea a favour when they play fourth-placed Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Thursday (18:00 BST) while before that the Blues are at home to Norwich on Tuesday (20:15).