Frank Lampard insisted Chelsea are not the finished article yet after Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount celebrated their England call-ups by inspiring a 4-1 rout of struggling Southampton on Sunday.
Abraham, Mount and their Blues team-mate Fikayo Tomori were all named by England manager Gareth Southgate in the squad for the forthcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
The promising young trio hogged the spotlight once again at St Mary’s as Abraham and Mount netted to maintain their superb starts to the season.
Chelsea are up to fifth in the Premier League heading into what promises to be a memorable international break for the club’s three young talents.
“I am happy we are in and around the top group. Obviously Liverpool are out on their own at the minute, but at this early stage we are in a nice position,” Lampard said.
“This should give us determination to go away (for international duty) and come back in the same vein because the minute you relax in this league it can all change very quickly.”
Abraham has nine goals in all competitions for Chelsea this term, underlining why Southgate is keen to get him action in a competitive match to ensure he commits to England.
The 22-year-old striker has won two caps for England in friendlies against Brazil and Germany in 2017, but he had flirted with switching his international allegiance to Nigeria, who he qualifies for through his father.
Mount, 20, bagged Chelsea’s second goal to once again showcase the predatory instincts that have helped the midfielder make a smooth transition to the Premier League following last season’s loan alongside Tomori at Derby.
Danny Ings got one back for Southampton, but N’Golo Kante and Michy Batshuayi struck to make it four successive wins in all competitions for Chelsea, who are beginning to thrive in Lampard’s first season in charge.
But Lampard believes Chelsea can get even better, especially at the back.
“We can’t afford to give little moments (to the opposition). That is a pointer for all of us that we are not there, we are nowhere near the finished article,” he said.
“We are a few points short of where we should be, based on our performances and that is not bad luck, just me being self-critical, but I’m pretty happy.”
Callum Hudson-Odoi was starting for Chelsea for the first time in the league this season and the England winger created their first chance with a burst that ended with Abraham shooting straight at Angus Gunn.
It was a warning that Southampton failed to heed as Chelsea took the lead in the 17th minute.
Hudson-Odoi floated a long pass towards Abraham and he nipped ahead of Saints defender Maya Yoshida to reach it on the edge of the area.
With Gunn having sprinted off his line, Abraham lofted his shot high over the keeper and the ball crossed the line despite Yoshida’s despairing attempt to clear with a bicycle kick.
Southampton’s creaky defence imploded again in the 24th minute as Jan Bednarek carelessly surrendered possession to Willian.
Jorginho played a return pass to Willian who slipped the ball through to Mount. The youngster glided into the area and slotted past Gunn.
Chelsea had kept only one league clean sheet in seven games under Lampard and they were breached easily in the 30th minute.
Yan Valery was allowed to drift past four Chelsea defenders without a single challenge and he whipped a cross to Ings, who got across Kurt Zouma to poke his shot past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Valery had played a key role in Southampton’s goal but he was guilty of deserting his post in the 40th minute and Marcos Alonso moved into the space vacated by the defender.
Alonso’s pass found Kante on the edge of the area and the France midfielder unloaded a shot that took a big deflection of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on its way past the wrong-footed Gunn.
Batshuayi came off the bench to wrap up Chelsea’s stroll on the south coast with a clinical finish in the 89th minute.
Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20 – World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.
“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.
“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”
With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.
There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.
Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.
There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.
That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.
South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.
“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.
Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?
Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.
England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.
Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.
Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.
The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.
Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.
South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.
Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.
“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.
But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.
While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.
The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.
First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.
But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.
Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19
Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections
Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.
Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.
The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.
Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.
Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.
Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.
More to follow