AMSTERDAM (AFP) – Christian Pulisic has staked a claim for a starting spot at Chelsea after the winger came off the bench to lay on the winning goal of a hugely impressive Champions League triumph at Ajax early yesterday.
Chelsea’s academy graduates have stolen the headlines as a youthful side has rattled off six wins in a row to move into the Premier League top four and draw level with Ajax at the top of Group H.
However, it was Lampard’s replacements who made the difference at the Johan Cruyff Arena, with American Pulisic coming off the bench to provide the perfect assist for fellow substitute
Batshuayi to squeeze home a dramatic winner with four minutes remaining in the match.
“You rely on them coming on and being positive and they both did. It’s great for squads when subs come on and make differences like that, it’s great for everyone,” Lampard said.
“You have to give Christian huge credit because he looked so lively when he came on and his assist was as important as the finish.”
Pulisic signed for Chelsea in a GBP58 million deal in January but the highly-rated 21-year-old has struggled to get into the Chelsea side since arriving in the summer, with the likes of Mason Mount, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi stealing the limelight.
However, his superb performance from the bench early yesterday came after a similarly positive substitute display in last weekend’s 1-0 win over Newcastle United.
His lightning footwork and smart cross was a reminder of the player who delighted Borussia Dortmund fans before he was forced onto the sidelines by another young Englishman in Jadon Sancho.
“I’ve tried to shut my ears to a lot of the outside talk… it’s a big move for him and I have other options in those areas,” said Lampard.
“Let’s give him full credit, he wants to know what I want from him, what the Premier League’s like, what his new teammates are like. It’s not going to be an easy road,” said Lampard.
“I see the big picture with him, I want him to be successful with this club because he’s a good lad and he wants to do really well.
“Acting like he’s acting, training like he’s training these last few weeks, playing like he’s playing … obviously makes me very very happy.” Lampard got off to a rocky start as Chelsea manager, with just two wins from his first eight games and the 1-0 home defeat to Valencia that made the matches with Ajax crucial to qualification for the knockout stages of the Champions League.
However early yesterday his side, which featured four youth products in the starting eleven and one more on the bench in Billy Gilmour, showed new levels of maturity in holding off a prolific attack that had fired Ajax to a unbeaten start of the season.
Chelsea also had more shots on target than the Dutch champions despite no longer having Eden Hazard to weave his magic in a hostile environment.