The winger came off the bench in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Newcastle and played in midfield to impressive effect, contributing to Marcos Alonso’s winner
Frank Lampard threw a curveball at rigid Newcastle United side to devastating effect on Saturday, introducing Christian Pulisic into midfield in a hard-fought 1-0 win that maintains Chelsea’s growing momentum.
Marcos Alonso bagged the only goal of the game, with a low, hard drive across Martin Dubravka – and that winner was made possible by Pulisic.
The American has been a winger by trade but Lampard has both Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi in top form, so he put Pulisic in an unfamiliar position.
Chelsea dominated possession and territory from the first whistle but, midway through the second half, it was clear that they needed more incision from their three midfielders, with Newcastle sitting deep and coping relatively comfortably with the home side’s attackers.
Ross Barkley went off injured after picking up a knock early in the first half, while Mason Mount struggled to influence the play as he usually does.
Out wide, Willian’s endeavour and Hudson-Odoi’s brilliance had created problems but the game was still scoreless when Pulisic came off the bench in the 64rd minute.
He promptly produced one of his best displays since arriving at Stamford Bridge during the summer from Borussia Dortmund.
It’s no secret that the 21-year-old has endured a trying start to his Premier League career, struggling to justify his £58 million ($73m) transfer fee. Indeed, he hasn’t started a top-flight game since August.
However, he was bright and busy from the moment he stepped on to the pitch, bringing a speed and energy that Chelsea had been lacking in the middle of the park.
Pulisic could even have scored just five minutes after coming on but his close-range shot was brilliantly saved by Dubravka, who was in sensational form all game for the visitors.
He also set up a glorious chance for Tammy Abraham, who saw what should have been a tap-in miraculously cleared to safety by DeAndre Yedlin.
Still, he made a decisive contribution, combining with Hudson-Odoi to create space for Alonso to fire home with just 17 minutes remaining.
It was a sweet strike from the Spaniard and one which earned Chelsea a fifth consecutive victory in all competitions, moving them up to third place in the Premier League standings in the process.
Lampard will undoubtedly take most encouragement out of the fact that Chelsea kept a clean sheet – only their second of the season.
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However, he will also have been buoyed by what he saw from Pulisic, who changed the game when he came on.
The United States international has been only young but he has been under pressure to live up to his billing and this was undeniably a step in the right direction.
We know he has the quality to excel at Chelsea. Now, we’ve seen he also has the versatility.