Frank Lampard hailed the performance of Mateo Kovacic after Chelsea swept to a convincing 4-1 win over Sheffield United at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues recovered from the blow of conceding their first goal in over seven hours of football, when David McGoldrick became the first player to score past Edouard Mendy in the Premier League, to record a convincing win that lifted them up to third place in the fledgling table.
Hakim Ziyech stole the show with a masterful display, while fellow summer signings Ben Chilwell and Timo Werner also got on the scoresheet as Chelsea signed off before the international break in style.
Lampard’s summer spending spree has increased the competition for places in all areas of his team and, after being a mainstay of the side last season, Kovacic has been in and out of the side so far this term.
The Chelsea manager admitted the scenario is a tough one for the Croatia international but he was delighted with his contribution against the Blades in what was his first Premier League start since the 3-3 draw against West Brom in September when he hauled the former Real Madrid star off at half-time.
‘I think Kovacic, when you look at our squad this year we have competition, as top teams generally do, and I need players who can come in lift the level, and bring something different.
‘That’s hard because every player wants to play all the time. Kova came in today and he added that. Him and Mason Mount in midfield were great. The driving runs, opening spaces for others.
‘With Kova it’s not easy. It’s not easy to come in when you’ve missed a few games and he played very well.’
After a sluggish start to the campaign, Chelsea are now beginning to showcase their potential, but Lampard is refusing to get carried away at this stage.
He added: ‘We are third. Now we are seeing some of the work. Some of the work today was really encouraging for me to see those signs. I am the first to keep my feet on the ground. Every game is challenging.
‘The players are the ones who deliver and deserve that first credit. They were amazing, all of them today. The balance of the team was good and it’s nice to see. We must continue. I really enjoyed watching it but I know how football is.’
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