Giving The Kids A Chance
Wednesday 20th September, Stamford Bridge – Chelsea played host to Nottingham Forest in the League Cup third round. 20th September 2017 also happened to be the 13th anniversary of the passing of Forest icon Brian Clough, who had, along with assistant Peter Taylor, led them to back-to-back European cups in 1979 and 1980. Forest also won their first and only Division 1 league title with Clough, as well as four League Cup trophies – only one less than their London-based hosts.
In his pre-match conference, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte had spoken about Nottingham Forest in glowing terms, describing them as one of the most important clubs in England. He also emphasized the need for his team to respect their visitors, as they’d beaten Newcastle United 3 – 2 in the previous round of the Carabao Cup. However after that big win, their league results had tanked a bit. They had lost three of their four games since then, and currently sat 10th in the Sky Bet Championship.
Both clubs made major changes to their squads from the weekend games against Arsenal and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Willy Caballero, Kenedy and Eden Hazard made their first competitive starts of the season for Chelsea. David Luiz was both suspended and injured (fractured wrist), but Antonio Rudiger returned to the starting lineup alongside Andreas Christensen and Gary Cahill. Tiemoue Bakayoko partnered Cesc Fabregas in midfield.
Michy Batshuayi was the central striker for Chelsea – and after all the social media hints and near misses, it was good to finally see Charly Musonda Jr starting a game. Second-generation Forest player Tyler Walker, son of club legend Des Walker started for the visitors, and both sets of fans were happy to welcome ex-Chelsea youth prospect Michael Mancienne back to the Bridge.
Caballero, Zappacosta (Sterling), Rudiger, Christensen (Clarke-Salter), Cahill, Kenedy, Fabregas (Ampadu), Bakayoko, Musonda, Batshuayi, Hazard
Subs Eduardo, Clarke-Salter, Moses, Sterling, Ampadu, Willian, Morata
Henderson, Mancienne, Hobbs, Worrall, Lichaj, Fox (Darikwa), Dowell (Clough), Bouchalakis, Osborn, Walker (Brereton), Cummings
Subs Smith, Darikwa, Carayol, McKay, Vellios, Clough, Brereton
Last season, Chelsea had struggled somewhat in their only league cup game against lower division opposition. Michy Batshuayi had scored two goals in their narrow 3 – 2 win against Bristol Rovers. Perhaps they had grown as a team since then, because this game ended up being a leisurely stroll in many respects.
The visitors had the first big chance of the night, with Bouchalakis striking a stinging shot from distance that was held by Caballero. After a Bakayoko interception, Musonda exchanged passes with Batshuayi and dribbled into the box, but Worrall cut the ball out with a great tackle. Kenedy provided for Batshuayi in the middle, but the striker was positioned too close to a covering defender, so he could only snatch at his shot and it went wide.
Maybe He’s Staying Then
Chelsea’s Brazilian winger Kenedy is a pretty good player, even if the club’s fans don’t seem to think so. He’d been public enemy number one since his social media faux pas in pre-season, so perhaps it was just as well for his reputation, that he opened the scoring on his first game this season.
The move was almost elegant in its simplicity – Rudiger dribbled up the inside right channel and put a long cross in to the far post. Kenedy stole in unnoticed and side-footed it in for 1 – 0. Rudiger obviously has hidden depths for a center back; the cross was a beauty, and Kenedy made his finish look easy.
Michy, Fabregas and Hazard exchanged passes on the edge of the box, before Hazard played a no-look through ball to Batshuayi. The pass got deflected, but it fell kindly for Michy, who had broken away from his marker, and he guided it on past the keeper for 2 – 0.
Forest weren’t giving up yet though. They had fought their way to a 3 – 2 win at St. James Park remember, and on 26 minutes Kieran Dowell struck an almost perfect free kick off the bar to give Caballero a minor scare.
Musonda had been a live wire all night. He combined well with Zappacosta on the right side, but the resulting cross was knocked back by Daniel Fox. Zappacosta then tapped the ball to Fabregas, who drew three defenders, saw the space (as he does) and put Musonda in with a diagonal through ball. Musonda whipped a low shot in from an acute angle, under the keeper and in the opposite corner of the net. His first Chelsea goal. 3 – 0.
Sometimes (actually most times) you want Eden Hazard to be more selfish in the final third. His actions on the fourth Chelsea goal though, were exemplary. Fabregas started another attack with a trademark long ball from Chelsea’s half, in over the opposition defence. Hazard bent his run to stay onside, left the defence behind with a burst of pace, turned Worrall into a fidget spinner when he caught up, rounded the keeper… then turned and passed left to an unmarked Batshuayi, who did not miss for 4 – 0.
Kenedy was the recipient of another long ball over the top from midfield, and his breakaway acceleration gave him time to juggle the ball, then cannon it in at such speed it was hard to follow visually. The shot struck the bar, ricocheted back down, then pinballed in off an onrushing Batshuayi for 5 – 0, and his first Chelsea hat trick.
It wasn’t quite game over for the visitors – in the final minute, Forest sub Tendayi Darikwa took advantage of a collective lapse in defensive concentration to grab a consolation goal for his team. Overall though, for the home side, this game had been about Mr. Conte giving Chelsea’s squad players and young talent a chance. And this year, they took it with both hands.
Final Score Chelsea 5 – 1 Nottingham Forest
Thumbnail image courtesy of: talkSPORT
Would you like to write for London is Blue? Click on the “contact us” tab located on the tope menu, fill out the form, and we can get started!