Start of something good: Giroud lifts Chelsea

Olivier Giroud scored his first goal since August in Saturday's London derby against Tottenham Hotspur. (Ian Kington/Getty)
Olivier Giroud scored his first goal since August in Saturday’s London derby against Tottenham Hotspur. (Ian Kington/Getty)

Olivier Giroud had waited the better part of three months to earn a Premier League start from Chelsea manager Frank Lampard. When that opportunity came in Saturday’s London derby against Tottenham Hotspur, the veteran World Cup-winning forward took full advantage.

The 33-year-old’s goal a quarter-hour in sent the Blues on their way to an eventual 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge. The win, Lampard’s second this season over his mentor, former Chelsea and current Spurs boss Jose Mourinho, was sealed by Marcus Alonso in the second half before a late own goal by Antonio Rudiger.

VAR officials also retroactively admitted they botched a possible red card for Spurs midfielder Giovanni Lo Celso. His studs-up challenge on Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta received a yellow card instead, and while the outcome was disappointing for Tottenham, it could’ve been even worse if Lo Celso had been sent off and received a subsequent suspension.

Rudiger’s error may have denied Giroud the game-winner, but the French striker still seized his opportunity. Despite his glittering resume, Giroud has barely played this season. Saturday’s contest marked just his third Premier League start all campaign, and first since November.

Early on, Lampard picked homegrown youngster Tammy Abraham as his main target man this season, and Abraham has rewarded him with 13 league goals. Lampard’s second choice has been Belgian front man Michy Batshuayi.

The logjam up top led to Giroud wanting to leave Chelsea during the January transfer window, to better his hopes of sticking on Les Bleus’ squad ahead of Euro 2020. But with Abraham injured, Lampard kept Giroud around. And after Batshuayi struggled mightily in Monday’s loss to Manchester United, his chance finally arrived.

The sequence that led to the opener began with Brazilian midfielder Jorginho’s line-splitting pass to Giroud behind the Tottenham defense. Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris stopped his international teammate’s initial effort with a fine save.

But when Ross Barkley pinged the rebound off the post, Giroud got a second shot. This time, he made no mistake:

Even early on, it was a richly deserved lead. Despite playing without a horde of regulars — in addition to Abraham (ankle), Chelsea was without destroyer N’Golo Kante and young attackers Callum Hudson-Odoi and U.S. national team headliner Christian Pulisic — it was clear that the home club was the better team.

The Blues seemed to miss their walking wounded far less than Mourinho’s similarly shorthanded side, which was without Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko and captain Harry Kane. Indeed, outside of a couple of first-half chances and Harry Winks’ wishful penalty shout in the second, the visitors barely threatened the net of Willy Caballero, who continued to start in place of the benched Kepa Arrizabalaga, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.

So it was no surprise when Chelsea sealed all three points though Alonso just three minutes after play resumed following halftime.

The loss snapped Spurs’ three-game winning streak and prevented them from leapfrogging Chelsea into fourth place.

It was a hugely important result for Chelsea, however, with its Champions League round of 16 opener against German titan Bayern Munich looming Tuesday. The Blues hadn’t won in four straight Prem games dating back to a Jan. 11 triumph over Burnley.

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