With Manchester United winning at Leicester in the other match affecting today’s outcome, Frank Lampard’s first season in charge finishes with him having guided his beloved Blues to fourth place in the Premier League, unquestionably a desired outcome back in August. The chance to add a cherry on top comes in the FA Cup final at Wembley next week.
Today it was goals from Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud that did the damage. The youngster, perhaps our star performer, curled in a delicious free-kick, and he then set up his more experienced team-mate Giroud, who finished with aplomb for his seventh goal since the restart.
We saw out the second half with few scares, limiting Wolves to very little in front of goal, crowning off an eventful, extended and ultimately successful league campaign. So, 350 days after our league campaign started at Old Trafford, play got underway at a cloudy Stamford Bridge with the Blues attacking a deserted Shed End knowing a season-defining 90 minutes lay ahead. In the East Stand, Timo Werner watched on for the first time.
Wolves had their own aspirations, a year to the day since their first game of 2019/20, with victory for them guaranteeing Europa League football next term. They started the brighter, and it took both Toni Rudiger and Kurt Zouma to stop Matt Doherty picking out a gold shirt with Marcos Alonso out of the picture clutching his back. He was okay to continue.
It was on the break that we looked at our most threatening early on, although our first attempt, after 11 minutes, stemmed from a set-piece, Reece James glancing a Mount delivery wide.
By the drinks break, Chelsea had grown into the ascendency without finding quite enough fluidity in the final third to create a clear opening. It had also needed a superb intervention from Mateo Kovacic, a Player of the Year contender, to stop Diego Jota in his tracks.
On the half-hour, Zouma and Raul Jimenez clashed heads and the Mexican striker needed lengthy treatment before he was cleared to continue.
The midfield battle continued, with so much determination on show from both sides. A decent spell of Chelsea possession ended with Jorginho breaking the lines to find Mount, whose right-wing cross was headed over by an off-balance Giroud.
The Blues seize control
With half-time approaching, Willy Caballero did excellently to claw a deflected Pedro Neto cross out from under his crossbar. We dealt with the resulting corner, and a raking Rudiger pass then found Reece James, who controlled excellently and saw his cutback put behind for a corner. From that set-piece, the visitors couldn’t clear their lines and Alonso was fouled on the edge of the box, despite Wolves protests.
It was between the Spaniard and Mount to take it, and the latter got the nod. What a decision it was! He clipped his free-kick over the wall and into the top left-hand corner, leaving Rui Patricio clutching at thin air. In the first minute of added time, the game’s first shot on target had brought its first goal.
The wait for a second shot on target, and a second goal, was not long! This time it was a flowing Chelsea move from back to front, involving Jorginho, Pulisic, and then Mount. The scorer turned provider, releasing Giroud on goal. He reached the ball before Patricio, cleverly nudging it past the keeper and then hooking his leg around the retreating Conor Coady to slam the ball in. It was a super finish, and further evidence of a striker at the top of his game.
The finish to the half couldn’t have been better. But Wolves are strong after the interval and coming from behind, so plenty of work remained. Adama Traore was introduced for Neto to try and threaten us with his pace.
We continued on the front foot, seeking a third that would surely kill the contest. Mount’s runs in behind proved troublesome, and from one Pulisic was crowded out from a promising position.
Prior to a triple Wolves sub, Diego Jota had the visitors’ first on-target effort of the day, a decent strike from 20 yards that Caballero did well to hold.
During the second drinks break at Stamford Bridge, Manchester United took the lead at Leicester, further strengthening our hold on a top-four place.
Twelve minutes remained when Lampard shuffled his pack for the first time, replacing Pulisic and Giroud with Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham. The withdrawn duo’s final act had been to exchange passes, Pulisic curling the striker’s cushioned pass over.
With the sting well and truly taken out of the game, the Blues saw out the final stages with almost no scares. In fact, Abraham had the best chance to extend our lead, but shot too close to Patricio with options either side. Nonetheless, it had been a professional performance, a merited clean sheet, and the perfect outcome!
Lampard’s choice of Caballero over Kepa was the main pre-match talking point from a Chelsea perspective. With Willian injured, Pulisic returned having made such an impact off the bench at Anfield. N’Golo Kante was not fit enough to be in the squad.
It was fitting that the man who has featured more often than anyone else for us in the Premier League season, Mount, put us ahead with a superb free-kick. It has been a phenomenal breakthrough season for the 21-year-old, who already has more appearances than any Chelsea Academy graduate in their debut campaign. It was his eighth goal this term, and he soon followed it up with his sixth assist.
Remarkably, Giroud has now scored in added time at the end of the first half in four consecutive matches. His well-executed finish today gave us the cushion of a second goal that made the second half an altogether more relaxing experience than it might have been, and capped off a quite remarkable run of form since the resumption. He’ll be hoping for more of the same at Wembley, a happy hunting ground for him!
Chelsea (3-4-3): Caballero; Azpilicueta (c), Zouma, Rudiger; James, Jorginho (Barkley 88), Kovacic (Loftus-Cheek 85), Alonso; Mount (Pedro 85), Giroud (Abraham 78), Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 78)
Unused subs Kepa, Tomori, Christensen, Emerson.
Scorers Mount 45+1, Giroud 45+4
Booked Giroud 45+3, Azpilicueta 90+2
Wolves (3-4-2-1): Rui Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty (Podence 59), Neves (Moutinho 59), Saiss, Jonny (Vinagre 59); Neto (Traore h/t), Jota (Jordao 84); Jimenez
Unused subs Ruddy, Kilman, Buur, Gibbs-White
Booked Jota 22, Neto 45, Dendoncker 83
Referee Stuart Atwell