FOR a team with a transfer ban, it looks like Chelsea made one heck of an addition this summer.
Christian Pulisic did not set the world alight when he was brought on as a 58th-minute substitute in Sunday’s 4-0 drubbing at Manchester United.
The £58million man from Borussia Dortmund was so average that boss Frank Lampard suggested it could take him time to adjust to the Premier League.
Yet Pulisic last night delivered a dazzling performance that made it easy to forget about a certain Belgian who is now in the Spanish capital.
Pulisic was actually signed in January, before Chelsea were hit with their two-window transfer ban for breaching rules in signing youth players.
He was loaned back to Germany for the remainder of the season before joining Lampard’s Blues in the summer.
And although a surprise starter, Pulisic caused Liverpool all sorts of problems.
He was comfortable with the ball at his feet, showed terrific awareness and his pass for Olivier Giroud’s opener was outstanding.
The USA international was also incredibly unlucky to be ruled offside having scored what he thought was Chelsea’s second goal.
Pulisic drove into the box, checked back on his right boot and shot well.
But although Irish assistant ref Michelle O’Neill kept her flag down under the new guidelines, it was ruled out by VAR.
Pulisic ran himself into the ground and looked knackered when he was replaced by Mason Mount in the 74th minute.
But he now has every chance of starting for Lampard’s first game back at Stamford Bridge on Sunday against Leicester.
Chelsea started off badly and it looked ominous with the defeat at Old Trafford fresh in the mind.
But they grew into the game and for much of the first half looked in control.
Arguably the best player on the pitch for that period was N’Golo Kante.
And it would surely not have gone unnoticed by Chelsea fans that he was playing in the role he was handed by Maurizio Sarri, with Jorginho once again deeper.
Jorginho was certainly also impressive but Kante was a menace, his tenacious tackling going alongside driving runs forwards.
Without doubt, Chelsea will go into Sunday’s game against Leicester with a lot more confidence because it will have taken one hell of a beating after that dreadful second-half performance in Manchester.
The fans in west London will still have to be patient, though, although this is not a quality that they appear to possess.
Particularly when you consider they embarrassed themselves with the way they treated Sarri last term, especially when they chanted for him to be sacked at Cardiff.
Despite the final result, it was a decent night for Lampard.
ON JUR WAY
It was also a good night for Liverpool’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. OK, it did not make up for the fact he had to watch the 2018 Champions League final in Kiev wearing a knee brace.
Or the fact that two brief cameo appearances against Huddersfield and Wolves — totalling just 19 minutes — meant he was an unused sub for the 2019 final win over Spurs in Madrid.
But for the Ox, who celebrates his 26th birthday today, last night in Istanbul was a significant evening on a journey to recovery — because at one stage the fear was he may never even play again.
So, in the grand scheme of things, the fact Oxlade-Chamberlain suffered a rough 45 minutes on his big return is hardly a crisis.
Equally, it was a reminder that Liverpool are still a bit short in offensive options and this could bite Jurgen Klopp on the backside.
Oxlade-Chamberlain started the Champions League semi-final over Roma in 2018 but his world fell apart in the 15th minute at Anfield when he injured his right knee following a challenge with Aleksandar Kolarov.
As he later described it, the problem was a “an injury within an injury, within an injury”. Oxlade-Chamberlain played 11 minutes in the Community Shield against Manchester City but it was a surprise he started here, with both Bobby Firmino and Divock Origi left on the bench.
Oxlade-Chamberlain played out on the left and apart from one fine pass to Mo Salah, who failed to score from it, he struggled to make an impact before being replaced by Firmino at half-time.
Liverpool return to Oxlade- Chamberlain’s first club, Southampton, on Saturday and it seems he will, once again, be starting on the bench.
He has needed to be patient over these last 16 months so another few weeks will not matter.
Klopp, though, remains short of cover. Origi scored some crucial goals last season and hopes are high for young striker Rhian Brewster.
But with Daniel Sturridge understandably being allowed to leave after his contract ran out, Liverpool should really have signed at least one replacement.