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Lampard & Abramovich: Why response to Bayern humbling will please Chelsea owner

COMMENT: Well for Chelsea fans, there's at least one scant silver lining to come out of last night... at least it wasn't seven!

It wasn't as bad as Spurs, but reality hit this Blues team and their young manager like a freight train on Tuesday evening. Bayern Munich effectively ending this season's Champions League run, inflicting upon Frank Lampard's young rookies Chelsea's heaviest ever home defeat in Europe.

But like everything in this game, there must be context. And as much as this was a reality check, in terms of where both this team and their manager is in this journey, there's much still to build upon.

First, to go back to front, the reaction of Lampard will have pleased the board - and particularly Roman Abramovich. As told you last week, the club's billionaire owner has been reinvigorated by the work of his young manager and the impact Chelsea have made this season. The buzz around the young players. The fresh, attacking style employed by Lampard. It's all contributed to a reinvention of the club's image - and significantly - has Abramovich as enthusiastic about his ownership as he has been these past 16 years.

And that enthusiasm will not have been dampened by Lampard's immediate response to the drubbing last night. There was no finger pointing. No excuse making. The manager never mentioned going through January without a first signing as Blues manager. Instead, it was about responsibility. Accountability. And lessons learned. Significantly, Lampard never spoke of who wasn't available, but about what could be gained by those who were.

"It was a harsh lesson of reality for the players," said the Champions League winner. "If you go for 90 minutes you have to show more than we showed... (the players) need to use this to a positive effect. It might not feel like that this evening but they need to understand the levels in the Champions League when you reach the knockout stages."

Cut through it all and the message is clear: we must learn from this - but we're in this together. Other managers. Indeed, past Chelsea managers. They would've been quick to talk about the absentees. The lack of board support in the market. The depth of the opposition bench. But Lampard didn't do that. He's learning too and as much as this was a "harsh lesson of reality" for his players, it was the same experience for him.

But he is getting things right - and his support of Willy Caballero is proof enough of that. The veteran Argentine was again preferred to Kepa Arrizabalaga - and didn't let his manager down.

Hansi Flick, the Bayern coach, went into last night declaring Chelsea's defence prone "to the odd mistake". But that's not an accusation he could level at Caballero.

Inside the board room, there have been murmurings about Lampard's treatment of Kepa. An €80m investment usurped by a free agent who's best years are apparently behind him? It's been one of the big debating points amongst the club's powerbrokers. But on the Champions League stage last night, in front of the world, Caballero well and truly reinforced Lampard's decision-making.

The 38 year-old was courageous, but most significantly also clean and secure. On last night's evidence, you give this veteran another 12 months, surely?

Speaking of which, at Bayern's late team dinner last night, the club's chief exec Karl-Heinz Rummenigge joked with Flick about his 55th birthday on Monday, saying as a gift he'd "get a packet of red pens, which can be used to sign papers". That 'interim' tag is about to be scrubbed off.

"We should've scored more," declared Thomas Muller in the aftermath, "but we absolutely deserved this 3-0 scoreline."

But this wasn't all one way. The headlines. The post-match reaction. It may point otherwise. But Chelsea, with Caballero inspired, were in this game before that quickfire double from Serge Gnabry after the break. Better decision-making. Being just that little sharper in the clinches - particularly Ross Barkley and Mason Mount - and things could've been different for the hosts. Bayern were superior, far superior, on the night, but as Lampard knows, it's those small details at this level which can swing momentum.

This was Bayern's night - and deservedly so. The hosts never recovered from that Gnabry brace and were clinging on by the time the outstanding Robert Lewandowski tapped in the third.

Men against boys? It's apt for a night like Tuesday. But Bayern don't leave a Chelsea in crisis or disarray. This season is one of transition. Of rebuilding. Something that's understood throughout the club.

And Lampard's response reinforces that approach. For this team. For these young players. Occasions like Tuesday will come around again. And with the club as united as they've ever been in this Abramovich era, you fancy the result will be something different.

After all it could be worse, just ask Spurs...

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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