55 min: Alonso one-twos with Willian down the left and cuts a ball back into the mixer. It’s whacked clear by Baldock. Henderson, that one lucky parry from James apart, has had very little to do this evening.
53 min: Chelsea deal with the corner easily enough, something that we haven’t been able to say too often this season. But then O’Connell comes at them from the left flank, nearly working space for a shot. Not quite. United continue to be the more impressive of the two teams, despite Chelsea’s tactical rethink.
52 min: Pulisic has been quiet since his early flurry of activity. He tries to dribble his way down the left but the door is slammed shut pretty quickly. United counter through Basham down the right. He curls low and hard towards Osborn, but Zouma hacks out for a corner.
50 min: James whips one in from the right. The deep cross is met by Alonso, coming in from the other flank. He heads harmlessly wide left from ten yards. Still, that’s a little better from Chelsea, who offered very little in attack during the first half.
49 min: McGoldrick rolls a ball down the right for McBurnie to chase. Rudiger smoothly drifts across to cover and snuff out the danger.
47 min: Basham channels his inner Garrincha and breezes down the inside-right channel. He nearly works space to shoot in the box, but it’s nose-bleed territory and he’s crowded out while thinking about it. He should probably have laid off to Berge, nearby in space.
Chelsea get the ball rolling for the second half, having made two changes. Rudiger and Alonso come on for Mount and the injured/hapless Christensen. Chelsea have gone to a back three, with Azpilicueta joining Zouma and Rudiger in the centre. Alonso and James are the wing-backs.
Half-time entertainment. Remembering the time Dundee United nearly won the European Cup.
HALF TIME: Sheffield United 2-0 Chelsea
The hosts are in total control, their European dream still very much alive. Chelsea have had their grip on third place severely loosened. A big second half coming up for both teams.
45 min: There will be two added minutes before the teams can get their half-time chip butties and pinch of snuff.
43 min: Seconds after snuffing out a move that would have established a three-goal lead for the hosts, Chelsea nearly reduce United’s advantage to one. James sends a vicious low diagonal swerver towards the bottom left. Henderson parries well, and the rebound somehow evades Abraham, the nearest player. United get away with something Chelsea earlier did not. It’s a thin line between success and failure sometimes.
42 min: Chelsea press forward but lose the ball. Suddenly they’re backtracking in a panic as United flood forward. Stevens tries to release McGoldrick with a raking ball down the middle, but credit where it’s due, Christensen holds the striker off and heads away from danger. Calm defending from the last man. Chelsea can’t afford to ship another before the break.
40 min: Chelsea are attempting to impose themselves on the game, but for all the possession, it’s fairly sterile stuff in the middle of the park.
38 min: Pulisic dances in from the left flank but his floated cross is nowhere near Abraham in the centre. The frustration of the men in blue is palpable.
36 min: Abraham tears after a long ball, but last-man Egan isn’t giving ground. Pulisic arrives hoping to help, but so does Basham. United team up to snuff out the danger and clear. The home side have been characteristically impressive so far.
35 min: Christensen is bullied off the ball by McBurnie as he tries to clear from a tight spot near the left-hand corner flag. Nothing comes from this particular press, but it does illustrate the lightweight nature of the Chelsea back line. It’s a big problem for Frank Lampard, he of furrowed brow in the dugout.
34 min: BREAKING NEWS. Chelsea’s defence is all over the shop.
GOAL! Sheffield United 2-0 Chelsea (McBurnie 33)
This is a simple but lovely goal! Stevens and Osborn execute a crisp one-two down the left. Willian doesn’t track Stevens, who has time to whip a cross to the near post. Zouma and Christensen make no challenge whatsoever, allowing McBurnie to plant a header in the bottom right! Kepa had no chance!
31 min: United plump up some cushions.
29 min: Chelsea continue to hog possession. But … and this depends on how you look at it – they’re either being very patient or huffing and puffing a bit. United seem comfortable.
27 min: Mount swings a ball in from the left. It’s too high for Abraham, who hasn’t had a sniff yet.
26 min: The game restarts. Chelsea stroke it around in the middle of the park, but go nowhere. At least they’re rehydrated.
24 min: And that’s drinks!
22 min: Champions League chasing Chelsea have a slight problem here. United have scored the opening goal in 14 Premier League matches this season. They’ve gone on to win 11 of those games. The other three were drawn.
20 min: That’s the first Premier League goal of McGodrick’s career. It’s taken him 26 appearances in the top flight.
GOAL! Sheffield United 1-0 Chelsea (McGoldrick 18)
Baldock clips a ball from the right towards McBurnie, just inside the box on the left. McBurnie shapes and slams a volley goalwards. It’s intended to head towards the bottom right, but the ball caroms off Barkley and heads towards the bottom left. Kepa sticks out a brilliant instinctive hand to parry, but his good work is for nought, and McGoldrick is on hand to belt home from a couple of yards.
17 min: United spend a bit of time in the Chelsea half, Berge causing a few problems down the right. Then McBurnie has a look down the left. Chelsea half clear. Then …
15 min: Willian has his first sniff of possession, gliding down the right, but his cross is Azpilicuetan. Goal kick.
14 min: Pulisic scampers down the left again and slips a pass towards Azpilicueta on the touchline. The Chelsea captain shanks a dismal cross into the stand behind the goal. This game hasn’t quite taken off yet, though Chelsea will be the happier of the two teams, enjoying as they are the lion’s share of possession.
12 min: Christensen is moving around fairly freely, so all appears well.
10 min: A pause as Christensen rolls his ankle as he snaps at McGoldrick’s heels. Ooyah, oof. A lot of frowning and wincing. The physio’s on. But he’s soon up and about again, and ready to continue.
8 min: Pulisic is up against a full-back already on a yellow card, and he looks in the mood. He drives at Baldock down the left before rolling forward towards Mount on the overlap. There’s a little too much juice on the pass and the move breaks down. Chelsea look dangerous every time Pulisic goes near the ball, much as they did in the first half against Crystal Palace last week.
7 min: James swings in a cross from the right. United let it fly all the way across to Pulisic, romping in from the left, ahead of Baldock. The hosts are relieved to see his stooping header fly harmlessly over. That was a real chance.
5 min: Norwood swings one in from the right. McGoldrick tries to plant a header goalwards but James does enough to put him off. It’s another corner, though, and Kepa flaps at it a wee bit. His weak punch drops to Osborn, who should do better from the edge of the box than flay wildly into the stand behind.
3 min: It’s a super-early booking for Baldock, who clatters into Pulisic late, and grabs him for good measure. Totally unnecessary, and now he’s got some thinking to do for the rest of the game. Never an ideal state of affairs.
2 min: Nothing comes of the resulting corner. Chelsea go up the other end, Barkley having a lash from distance. It’s an easy gather for Henderson. No doubting that both teams are after the three points here.
16 seconds: Stevens and O’Connell combine down the left, the latter’s cross being hoicked out for a corner by Mount, under pressure under his own bar. What a start that nearly was!
United get the ball rolling … but not before all 22 players take a knee. Black lives matter.
The teams are out! Sheffield United are in their old red and white stripes, while Chelsea wear next season’s first-choice blue. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes. But first, a moment of silent reflection in honour of Jack Charlton – formerly a player with Leeds and manager of Sheffield Wednesday – who passed away today. RIP Big Man.
Frank Lampard – who scored with a strange, swerving, keeper-bamboozling free kick the last time Chelsea played at Bramall Lane, in 2006 – has a word. “Credit to Chris Wilder, they have a real identity. Even if you feel like you know what’s coming, it’s still very difficult to deal with them. They’ve shown that in the Premier League this season. It’s a huge credit to them. You really have to do your homework and look at how they play, because it is pretty unique. We have to be ready to deal with it.”
Chris Wilder speaks to Sky Sports. “Performances have been good, and we’ve got to try to find a way again to get past a very good side. We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, we can’t look any further than this afternoon, they’re one of the most free-flowing teams in the division. It’s a brilliant test for my players, and one we’re really looking forward to.”
Sheffield United make one change to the team that beat Wolves midweek. David McGoldrick replaces Billy Sharp up front; Sharp drops to the bench.
Chelsea make two changes to the side that won at Crystal Palace a few days back. Tammy Abraham and Jorginho replace Olivier Giroud, a sub today, and the injured Billy Gilmour.
Sheffield United: Henderson, Basham, Egan, O’Connell, Baldock, Berge, Norwood, Osborn, Stevens, McBurnie, McGoldrick.
Subs: Lundstram, Sharp, Jagielka, Kieron Freeman, Robinson, Mousset, Moore, Rodwell, Zivkovic.
Chelsea: Kepa, James, Christensen, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Barkley, Jorginho, Mount, Willian, Abraham, Pulisic.
Subs: Rudiger, Alonso, Loftus-Cheek, Caballero, Kovacic, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi, Bate.
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands).
Chelsea away was Sheffield United’s first statement result this season. Two goals down to Tammy Abraham’s first-half double in late August, Chris WIlder’s newly promoted side rallied in the second half and secured a richly deserved 2-2 draw, Callum Robinson scoring one and teasing a late own goal out of Kurt Zouma. After the game, Chris Wilder made his intentions for the season clear: “Three years ago we were bottom of League One and now we have come away from Chelsea with a result. We are not day trippers getting autographs and collecting shirts.”
Nearly a year down the line, poor United still have no autographs or shirts. But they have collected quite a lot of points, and as such remain a good bet for European qualification next season. It’s been the best performance from a newly promoted side since Ipswich Town wheelspun around the country in their tractor back in 2000-01. Since the restart, they’ve been diddled by technology at Aston Villa, and have recovered from back-to-back three-goal setbacks to pick up seven of the last nine points on offer. John Egan’s last-gasp winner against Wolves on Wednesday could be the reinvigorating boost that sends them continent-bound next season.
Chelsea have wants and desires of their own, mind. Since the resumption, they’ve moved into third spot, their Champions League chances for next season looking none too shabby right now. But they do have a couple of tricky games to end the season in Liverpool and Wolves, so could be doing with getting the full quota of six points from today’s match and Tuesday’s visit of Norwich. Easier said than done against a side who have lost just one of their last nine at Bramall Lane, and Chelsea don’t boast the most dependable defence in the division. But they are a lot of fun to watch, so this could be a doozy. It’s on!
Kick off: 5.30pm BST.
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