LONDON — Mason Mount sent Chelsea into next season’s Champions League with a sumptuous free kick and an assist for Olivier Giroud in a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton on the final day of the Premier League on Sunday.
Mount’s curling strike from just outside the area put Chelsea ahead in first-half stoppage time at Stamford Bridge, before the 21-year-old England international teed up Giroud for a fine finish less than three minutes later.
Chelsea sealed a fourth-place finish in Frank Lampard’s first season in charge, and joined champion Liverpool, second-place Manchester City and third-place Manchester United in the Champions League.
The 33-year-old Giroud became the oldest man to score in five straight Premier League starts, swiping that record from Leicester’s Jamie Vardy.
Lampard said qualifying for the Champions League will boost Chelsea’s recruitment drive that has already seen winger Hakim Ziyech arrive from Ajax and striker Timo Werner join from Leipzig.
Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz reportedly could join Chelsea this summer, too.
Asked if a top-four finish makes recruitment easier, Lampard said: “In brutal honesty, I would say yes. Not to say exactly where that will go, because that’s not a conversation today off the back of the game straightaway.
“We know that the economics of the Champions League are big, we know that. We know the prestige, top players want to play in the Champions League. The top players that are here already, even the young players, they want to play in the Champions League."
Lampard made the bold decision to start veteran goalkeeper Willy Caballero ahead of Kepa Arrizabalaga, giving Chelsea's manager a dilemma ahead of Saturday's FA Cup final against Arsenal.
“The idea that we haven’t kept enough clean sheets is definitely not just a reflection of our goalkeeper,” said Lampard. “That’s something that we have to work on as a team, look at how we train, maybe how we recruit generally going forward. But I don’t want to pinpoint it on Kepa today.
“That was a decision today probably on recent form, recent situations for him, he’s had a tough time. And I felt Willy coming in off the back of a good performance against Manchester United last week would be what we needed today. So I don’t want to jump forward beyond the Arsenal game next week. It would be wrong."
Wolves’ loss meant they failed to finish in sixth — a Europa League qualifying spot — with Tottenham going ahead on goal difference thanks to a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.
Seventh-place Wolves could still play in Europe next season — in the Champions League if they win the Europa League, which resumes next month, or in the Europa League if Chelsea wins the FA Cup on Saturday.
“The season is not finished yet, it’s not over for us yet; we have 10 days to prepare a game,” said Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo, referring to the last-16 second leg against Olympiakos that is poised at 1-1.
"What happens (in the FA Cup final), happens. But we should do things so we deserve it.”
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The Associated Press