After a spending spree of US$250 million on some of Europe’s most exciting stars, Chelsea were indebted to a wonder strike from one of their homegrown players during a win in their opening English Premier League game.
Reece James, a 20-year-old defender who has been at Chelsea since the age of six, looks to be a player capable of staying in the team however much money the club spends in the coming seasons.
One of a slew of highly rated rightbacks to come through in England in the past few years, James showed he has class at both ends of the field by smashing home a swerving piledriver that was the best and most crucial goal of a 3-1 victory at Brighton & Hove Albion on Monday.
It regained the lead for Chelsea at 2-1 in the 56th minute, 100 seconds after Brighton equalized. James then sent over the corner in the 66th which Kurt Zouma met with a volley that deflected into the net, allowing Chelsea to ease to the three points.
“Reece has got that in him, he is a player of such quality. You try and get him in areas where he can be a threat,” Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said.
“Today is a good feeling for us, because it wasn’t a great performance. I’m not going to sit here and say that, but we got the three points,” he said.
“If we can get those points early, confidence builds, we’ll have more time to work with the team, players come back from injury and the new signings settle in, hopefully we can make big strides,” Lampard said.
The pressure is on Lampard to lead Chelsea to a title challenge this season after their spree in the transfer market.
He was only able to start two of his six signings, though — attacking midfielder Kai Havertz and striker Timo Werner, signed for a combined US$160 million.
Havertz showed a few neat touches, but was generally quiet, while Werner was more impressive, winning the penalty that Jorginho converted to put Chelsea ahead in the 23rd minute.
“It’s not a game you come away from and go: ‘Here were 10 vintage moments,’ but I thought there were moments of real quality and calmness. It’s a big ask — there’s a lot on his shoulders,” Lampard said of Havertz, who moved for US$92 million from Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Despite all the arrivals — Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva have also been signed — Lampard still has an issue at goalkeeper.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was possibly at fault for Brighton’s 54th-minute equalizer after letting Leandro Trossard’s shot from outside the area sneak into the far corner.
Signed in 2018 as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Kepa was dropped for spells of last season and his place could be under threat if Chelsea manage to sign Edouard Mendy from Stade Rennais.
However, the wonderful strike by James quickly bailed Kepa out.
Additional reporting by Reuters
In Monday’s other game, it was:
‧ Sheffield Utd 0, Wolves 2
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