Sheffield United: 'I warned my players The Blades would fight until the bitter end'
Frank Lampard admitted he had warned his Chelsea players that Sheffield United were not a spent force, despite conceding two goals during a one-sided first-half at Stamford Bridge.
But the former England midfielder, who had spoken of his admiration for Chris Wilder's side before the match, refused to blame inexperience for the hosts' collapse, suggesting that would be disrespectful to the visitors.
"I told the boys during the break that 2-0 was not the end of the story," Lampard said. "But we should have seen the game out, and I mean that with all respect to Sheffield United."
Lampard's admiration for United traces back to last season, when he enjoyed two hard-fought tussles with Wilder's squad during a spell in charge of Derby County. Appointed as Maurizio Sarri's successor earlier this summer, his selections for Saturday's game betrayed the admiration Chelsea's coaching staff have for both United's 3-5-2 system and the threats it poses opponents. Although Lampard refused to elaborate afterwards, that probably explained why Fikayo Tomori was preferred to Andreas Christensen at centre-half. The Canadian, whose presence helped ensure Chelsea named their youngest starting eleven of the Premier League era, also spent the previous campaign at Pride Park and impressed against United at Bramall Lane and in the East Midlands.
"To be honest, I couldn't care less about it being the youngest line-up or whatever," Lampard said. "I don't think that relates to anything at all."
"Tomori has done really well for me," Lampard, whose team is still searching for its first clean sheet of the campaign, continued. "It's not the defence, you defend as a team. I'm not worried about the defensive combinations."
United appeared destined for a long afternoon when Tammy Abraham scored twice before the interval, taking advantage of defensive errors on both occasions. But Callum Robinson's finish early in the second period proved the catalyst for a memorable comeback in west London, with substitute Lys Mousset equalising with only minutes remaining. Despite officially being credited as a Kurt Zouma own goal, television replays later confirmed the Frenchman got the final touch on the ball before it flew past Kepa Arrizabalaga.