Football

Olivier Giroud getting better with age: Frank Lampard

Frenchman scores late winner off the bench as Chelsea qualify for Champions League last 16

Olivier Giroud is a model professional for the Chelsea squad and the 34-year-old striker seems to be getting better with age, manager Frank Lampard said after the Frenchman scored a late winner against Rennes in a Champions League Group E clash yesterday morning (Singapore time).

Giroud has yet to start an English Premier League or Champions League game this season but came on as a second-half substitute and scored in stoppage time to seal Chelsea's 2-1 win and a place in the knockout stages.

Callum Hudson-Odoi opened the scoring for the Blues in the 22nd minute before Serhou Guirassy equalised five minutes from time.

"Everybody kind of feels from the outside what a great professional he is, how highly regarded he is by his teammates and myself," said Lampard.

"He's so professional in how he trains and looks after himself that age isn't even a factor for him. He's getting better with age if anything, in terms of how he looks after himself...

"It wasn't just his goal when he came on but his hold-up play and physicality."

Lampard has preferred Timo Werner and Tammy Abraham ahead of Giroud and the striker's lack of minutes prompted France coach Didier Deschamps to tell him to sort out his situation ahead of next year's European Championship.

But with Chelsea set to play 10 games in six weeks, Lampard said more game time is in store for Giroud, who is France's second-highest scorer with 44 goals.

"He offers a lot for us and I keep saying it but the big schedule coming up and the way we play means I will rely on players," Lampard added.

Lampard's ex-Blues teammate Joe Cole, meanwhile, said that Giroud is "one of the EPL's most underrated players".

Cole told BT Sport: "I think he's one of the Premier League's most underrated players, he consistently performs whether it be for Arsenal or Chelsea.

GENERAL DEMEANOUR

"It's not just moments like today such as getting the winning goal, it's his general demeanour around the place, he's a good player in the dressing room.

"There's a reason why Didier Deschamps relies on him for France. Frank will not want Giroud walking out of the door in January. It was a great header from Giroud."

Cole's former England teammate Peter Crouch agreed, telling BT Sport: "We know how good Giroud is in the air. The determination, the presence and the power he gets into that header. Look at the leap. It was a fantastic finish, he makes it look easy and it was far from easy."

Chelsea were joined in the last 16 by Sevilla, who also needed an injury-time goal to beat Krasnodar 2-1. Both teams have 10 points after four matches.

- REUTERS

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