London - Christian Pulisic has staked a claim for a starting spot at Chelsea
after the winger came off the bench to lay on the winning goal of a
hugely impressive Champions League triumph at Ajax.
Chelsea's academy graduates have stolen the headlines as a youthful
side has rattled off six wins in a row to move into the Premier League
top four and draw level with Ajax at the top of Group H.
However it was Lampard's replacements who made the difference at the
Johan Cruyff Arena, with American Pulisic coming off the bench to
provide the perfect assist for fellow substitute Batshuayi to squeeze
home a dramatic winner with four minutes remaining.
"You rely on them coming on and being positive and they both did.
It's great for squads when subs come on and make differences like that,
it's great for everyone," Lampard said.
"You have to give Christian huge credit because he looked so lively
when he came on and his assist was as important as the finish."
Pulisic signed for Chelsea in a £58 million deal in
January but the highly-rated 21-year-old has struggled to get into the
Chelsea side since arriving in the summer, with the likes of Mason
Mount, Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi stealing the limelight.
However his superb performance from the bench on Wednesday night came
after a similarly positive substitute display in last weekend's 1-0 win
over Newcastle United.
'No easy road' for Pulisic
footwork and smart cross was a reminder of the player who delighted
Borussia Dortmund fans before he was forced onto the sidelines by
another young Englishman in Jadon Sancho.
"I've tried to shut my ears to a lot of the outside talk... it's a
big move for him and I have other options in those areas," said Lampard.
"Let's give him full credit, he wants to know what I want from him,
what the Premier League's like, what his new team-mates are like. It's
not going to be an easy road," said Lampard.
"I see the big picture with him, I want him to be successful with
this club because he's a good lad and he wants to do really well.
"Acting like he's acting, training like he's training these last few
weeks, playing like he's playing ... obviously makes me very very
Lampard got off to a rocky start as Chelsea manager, with just two
wins from his first eight games and the 1-0 home defeat to Valencia that
made the matches with Ajax crucial to qualification for the knockout
stages of the Champions League.
However on Wednesday his side, which featured four youth products in
the starting XI and one more on the bench in Billy Gilmour, showed new
levels of maturity in holding off a prolific attack that had fired Ajax
to a unbeaten start of the season.
Chelsea also had more shots on target than the Dutch champions
despite no longer having Eden Hazard to weave his magic in a hostile
Despite working under a FIFA ban from buying new players, Lampard denied he was being forced to play youngsters.
"People think that the choice of the young players is a necessity: I
have to play Mason Mount, I have to play Tammy Abraham," said Lampard.
"I've got options in the squad but the young players have shown that
they deserve to play... I feel like there's more to come, because I've
seen the quality, and I'm not just talking about ability on the ball,
I'm talking about how much they want to win."