Barely a week ago, we had been lamenting how Chelsea were getting almost no goal-scoring contributions from center backs. While obviously their primary job is to defend, there’s been a great tradition of goal-scoring defenders at the club, and that was not getting upheld. In fact, before last weekend’s FA Cup match match against Hull City, Fikayo Tomori was the only center back to have scored all season, and even that took a 30-yard bomb instead of the more obvious route of a set piece header.
So of course three of Chelsea’s four goals since have been set piece headers. Tomori scored what proved ultimately to be the winning goal against Hull from a Ross Barkley free kick, while yesterday Antonio Rüdiger headed in two Mason Mount deliveries, one from a corner to take the lead and one from a free kick to level things up at 2-2. Football is a strange sport indeed!
Rüdiger has scored one of the goals of the season but it will never be seen as so due to it being a header. The amount of skill, power and raw athleticism to score his second goal is something not many players can do. The xG was 0.05!— UtdArena. (@utdarena) February 1, 2020
They were Rüdiger’s first goals in well over a year, since he scored against Manchester United in October 2018, in what also turned out to be a 2-2 draw (Ross Barkley with the stoppage-time equalizer for Sarri’s Blues). It was also the center back’s 100th Chelsea appearance — a perfect way to mark that milestone by doing something that has not been done since Captain-Leader-Legend John Terry did it in 2013. (Not quite 2-Goal Ivanović levels, but still notable!)
2 - Antonio Rüdiger is the first defender to score a brace for Chelsea in the Premier League since John Terry against Fulham in April 2013; both of his goals that day were also headed. Noggin. #LEICHE pic.twitter.com/hACIstv5u4— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 1, 2020
Rüdiger has just 6 goals in those 100 appearances, so he’s got some ways to go to emulate prime Terry’s roughly 1-in-10 strike rate (67 in 717). But in other ways he’s already like JT: the beating heart of the team, the vocal leader, and a strong presence on the pitch. And he now seems to be fully over his own injury issues as well, which can only bode well for the future, both short- and long-term.
“He brings an aggression and a presence in everything that he does, which is good because we have young players in that area as well. I think he is the more experienced of our centre-backs, and he brings something in set-pieces. We have been a bit short in them, in terms of how much desire have we got to it to score goals. He does that naturally.
“I was delighted with his two goals, we need to score more from set-pieces, particularly in these games against good opposition where it is tight. I am really pleased with Toni.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
As both Frank Lampard and Rüdiger also mentioned after the game, Chelsea had been working hard on set pieces in training, so it was nice to see that finally pay off even if in the end we had to settle for just one point — and were lucky to get away with one point at the same time.