Football: Giroud guides Chelsea closer to the Champions League

LONDON (AFP) – Chelsea opened up a four-point cushion over Manchester United and Leicester in the race for a place in the Champions League next season despite making heavy weather of beating already relegated Norwich 1-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (July 14).

Olivier Giroud's header in first half stoppage time secured the Blues a much-needed three points with a trip to champions Liverpool and sixth-placed Wolves visiting Stamford Bridge on the last day of the season to come in Chelsea's final two league games of the season.

Leicester can narrow the gap when they host Sheffield United on Wednesday, while United travel to Crystal Palace on Thursday.

Frank Lampard was furious with his side's lack of fight in surrendering to a 3-0 defeat at Sheffield United on Saturday that plunged Chelsea's chances of a top-four finish into doubt.

“The game was OK but results are critical. We could have won by more, we could have been a bit better with our quality,” he said.

“It was OK, professional would be a word. I want more but that can wait. I think that where we are at the moment as a team and the position we are in, three points was everything tonight.”

Lampard said there was a lot of room for improvement.

“I believe in the group having more quality than we showed in those early stages. We need to move the ball quicker, not take too many touches and allow the opposition to be compact. We have to be more mobile in the way we play our rotations. Weve done it before this season but if we want to really move up, longer-term, then it can be better.

“But I dont want to be too critical after three points at this stage (of the season). Its not easy, there was a nervy feeling for understandable reasons and so Im pleased.” Chelsea had lost 3-0 away at Sheffield United on Saturday. “There was a bit more personality in our game tonight,” Lampard added.

He made five changes from the battering at Bramall Lane with Giroud among those restored to the starting line-up.

Chelsea have already significantly bolstered their frontline for next season with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.

But Giroud has more than justified the decision to also extend his contract by a year during football's shutdown as Chelsea's most potent striker since the restart.

The French World Cup winner saw a number of chances come and go in the first half as an attempted lob over Tim Krul fell gently into the Dutch 'keeper's arms before he sliced well over the bar when unmarked inside the area.

Christian Pulisic forced Krul into his best save of the first-half with a powerful drive that was just too close to the former Newcastle stopper.

Just as Norwich looked set to hold out until the break Giroud shrugged off Tim Klose to connect with Pulisic's cross for his fifth goal in eight games.

Norwich's long-awaRead More – Source