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Chelsea 2-0 Sheffield United: Palmer and Jackson quickfire double enough for victory



(Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Chelsea had enough in the tank to see off a substandard Sheffield United 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon.

The Blues put the Blades to the sword in one blistering second-half spell, in a game that was otherwise laboured and more sleepy than spectacle. The three points however will come as welcome relief for Mauricio Pochettino, with poor results of recent leaving the Argentine feeling a little under siege.

The hosts began on the front foot, playing with an energy and an intent perhaps driven by a poor run of form of late. There was particularly a lot of early joy on the left flank, without ever really fashioning the final ball. The first opportunity of note came on the 15 minute mark – a rebound finding its way to Conor Gallagher, whom struck it well but into the clutches of Wes Foderingham in the away goal.

It was a fixture very evidently needing some impetus, and Mykhailo Mudryk tried his level best to provide that ten minutes later. The Ukrainian slotted the ball between the legs of his marker before unleashing one from all of 25 yards. It drifted harmlessly – and for the away faithful, hilariously – off towards the corner flag, which about summed up the quality of proceedings to that point.

It was laborious but comfortable for Chelsea, yet they were offered a stark reminder that they had to get their act in gear when Cameron Archer cut in from the left and let fly with a shot that very nearly deflected beyond Djordje Petrovic, who was making his starting debut for the club. It was panic stations from the resulting corner, too, requiring the Pensioners to scramble clear.

(Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mudryk continued to look bright, with blistering pace setting him on his way only for his cutback to be scooped away. His colleagues lamentably were in an all together sleepier mood, as evidenced by a dangerous Blades counter attack which fizzed across the six-yard box – a real let-off.

The snoozefest showed no sign of abating, so a lot of credit had to go to Foderingham for being awake to the danger and racing off his line to deny the ponderous Nicolas Jackson a good opportunity to open the scoring five minutes before half-time. Moises Caicedo‘s good through ball had led to that chance and he was one of few by the end of a first half having a quietly good game. Jackson would go on to curl one past Foderingham’s post, with the Blades goalkeeper rooted to the spot.

Half-time felt a mercy for all spectators, this writer included. There was such a distinct lack of quality across the board, but perhaps that was to be expected given the relative positions of the two strugglers in the Premier League standings. Substitute Enzo Fernandez went through the motions at half-time, and it was the sort of game crying out for the World Cup winning maestro. Pochettino opted to keep him benched for the time being.

Whatever the Argentine had said to his men at the interval seemed to have jolted some inspiration. Cole Palmer started a lovely move on the right hand side, feeding in Raheem Sterling before he duly returned the favour for his fellow ex-Manchester City alumni to steer home in the 54th minute.

Chris Wilder’s side were suitably rattled and that may have contributed to their concession of a second just seven minutes later. Gallagher hooked a hopeful ball over the Blades backline towards Sterling. The veteran went down in a heap and everyone seemed to stop and look at the referee expecting a penalty. With nothing doing, Palmer played on and rolled it towards the back stick, where Jackson could hardly believe his luck as he prodded into an empty net.

(Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Sterling seemed at the races and could have had a third just five minutes later if not for the alertness of Foderingham once again – a sumptuous long-ball from Thiago Silva almost finding the Englishman racing clear. Fernandez would then come on in place of Mudryk, and Armando Broja would soon follow suit in place of Sterling. Those changes sandwiched a strong save from Petrovic in between the Chelsea sticks, with Gustavo Hamer trying his luck from distance, and a Sheffield United goal that was struck off as the ball had gone out of play in the build-up.

The freshly introduced Albanian striker would go on to register possibly the miss of the season seven minutes from time. From all of three yards he conspired to put the ball wide after a slight bobble on its way through. VAR checked for a penalty in a separate incident, but that did not spare his blushes.

One peer not struggling with his feet was Palmer, who had stepped into a totally other gear in the second period with his silky feet and impact. In one moment he nutmegged one player and drew a foul from another, before having his well struck free kick denied.

As the game limped towards its conclusion, there was sadly to be no first appearance of Christopher Nkunku – which would have put some gloss on what was otherwise drab proceedings. Yet the win was important for Pochettino and all involved at the club, as they look to build momentum ahead of a crucial Carabao Cup tie against Newcastle United on Tuesday.