Lampard’s side score two own goals but go down battling. There were times when this felt more like a celebration than a cup-tie. Those present could rejoice in some encouraging storylines and almost comical subplots just as much as thrill at the wonderfully attacking football delivered by both teams with Frank Lampard, a beaten opposing manager, conducting a post-match lap of the pitch to applaud those supporters who will always count him as one of their own.
Chelsea’s all-time record goal scorer has hoisted Premier League trophies in this arena but this occasion, spied from the vantage point of the opposition dugout, still left him brimming with pride.
He could purr at the performance of his Derby County, players, the visitors having finished the stronger team and within the width of a post from forcing a penalty shootout. However, he could cling, too, to that appreciative din which was still echoing round the ground well after the final whistle. “I left out of the back door here [in 2014] and that was disappointing, but I walked in the front door today and got that reception,” said Lampard. “I’m a lucky man to get that support from both ends of the ground tonight.”
His only regret was elimination, as Marizio Sarri’s unbeaten Chelsea progressed into a quarterfinal against Bournemouth and Lampard aimed his frustration at the award of the home side’s winning goal after Davide Zappacosta’s apparent foul in the build-up.
VAR was consulted before Jon Moss awarded that goal; Cesc Fàbregas’s snapshot having flown in via Scott Carson’s left glove with Derby’s players already mustering their protest. Would Lampard depart wondering whether the bigger clubs do, indeed, benefit from fortunate decisions at key times as was suggested so often when he was propelling Chelsea to trophies? “No,” came the response through a smile.
There were other elements to this frenzy of a contest which felt unique, not least given Chelsea had 13 of their own players on the pitch throughout after their decision to permit the young loanees Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount to feature against their parent club.
Tomori would end up being taken to one side by David Luiz, the Brazilian offering the England Under-21 defender encouragement given it had been the youngster’s own goal which had edged the home side ahead within the opening five minutes. Slicing in Zappacosta’s cross was not how Tomori had envisaged scoring his first Chelsea goal in front of the Shed End.
“But to deal with that and play as he did afterwards, his character was immense,” said Lampard.