It was to be no dream return to Stamford Bridge for Frank Lampard as his first home game as Chelsea manager ended in a 1-1 draw with Leicester as the legendary midfielder didn’t enjoy the homecoming he wanted as Chelsea fell away badly after taking an early lead.
Rather poetically, it was a goalscoring midfielder in Mason Mount who opened the scoring early on as the Blues made an outstanding start to the game. However, Chelsea fell away badly in the second half – with Wilfred Ndidi heading home an equaliser – and the Blues laboured to hold on to a point in the end.
It has been a while since the Matthew Harding Stand and Shed End have been filled with such excitement and optimism ahead of a game, and Lampard emotionally saluted the crowd as the first whistle sounded.
The manager needed points after losing his first two games in charge – a heavy 4-0 loss at Manchester United and then a penalty shootout defeat to Liverpool in the Uefa Super Cup ramping up the pressure on him.
And he couldn’t have asked for a better start as Chelsea swarmed over Leicester in the opening quarter, taking the lead after Mount pick-pocketed Ndidi before finishing with aplomb.
Mount is a player who Lampard nurtured on loan at Derby County last season, and the 41-year-old and his coaching team had little doubt that he was ready to step up.
The 20-year-old will be key for the Blues this season and he proved his manager was right to pick him ahead of Ross Barkley, going close on two other occasions in the first half.
“Mason is so hungry but he has a very good understanding of what he needs to be as a player,” Lampard explained.
“This will be a good season for him. If he carries on the way he is going, then he will be a huge influence for us.”
The build-up to Mount’s goal sums up what is expected from Lampard’s style of football as the youngster aggressively pressed Ndidi into a mistake high up the pitch.
The academy graduate’s goal also highlights a broader faith placed in youth by Lampard and other members of his coaching team such as Jody Morris and Chris Jones.
The Cobham Training Centre has produced more talent than any other academy in English football over the last decade, but so few youngsters have been given a chance in the first team.
That is about to change and Mount’s goal will leave many kids dreaming that they too can get an opportunity under the new regime.
Indeed, Mount was the first English debutant to score on his home debut at Stamford Bridge since 1997. It was also the first Premier League goal and home goal of the Lampard era.
The starlet – who was given the set-piece responsibility – was undoubtedly Chelsea’s standout player against Leicester as he demonstrated a better understanding of Lampard’s system than his team-mates.
More broadly, Chelsea will be frustrated to see another win escape their grasp despite taking the lead. They dominated most of the first half but lost their way after the break, and may have even lost the match as Jamie Vardy and James Maddison missed big chances after Ndidi’s 67th-minute equaliser.
Willian, Tammy Abraham and Mateo Kovacic were called from the bench late on but it was Leicester who finished the stronger as Chelsea tired after their gruelling midweek exertions in Istanbul.
One draw and two losses is a harsh return given Chelsea’s performances over the last week but Lampard’s young troops will need to learn that football can be a cruel game.
They will need to pick themselves up ahead of two favourable fixtures against Norwich City and Sheffield United before the international break. The wait goes on for a first win in the Lampard era.