Some Kind of Chance
Wednesday 20th December, Stamford Bridge – Midweek league cup action at the Bridge, Chelsea v Bournemouth for a place in the semi-finals!
The Carabao Cup was now a pretty important competition for Chelsea. They were third in the league, but so far off the top, there was not much chance of catching the leaders. And with Barcelona looming on the Champions League horizon, the league cup and FA cup were their two highest probability chances to win a trophy this season.
Bournemouth had their own concerns – they’d only managed 3 points from 18 in their last six premier league games. They were 16th in the table, just one point above Newcastle in 18th and four above bottom club Swansea.
They could probably do without the distractions of a deep cup run, but maybe it could give the fans and players a morale boost? Help them recover some form in the league?
Both clubs rotated heavily for this game. Bournemouth made seven changes and Chelsea made eight to their most recent EPL line-ups. Artur Boruc replaced ex-Chelsea keeper Asmir Begovic in goal. Bournemouth’s other former Chelsea player Nathan Ake was on the bench, but Steve Cook, Ryan Fraser, Harry Arter and Dan Gosling all started, with Jermain Defoe and Lys Mousset up top.
Seventeen-year-old Ethan Ampadu was in center back, flanked by Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger. Kenedy and Davide Zappacosta were the wing backs, Cesc Fabregas and Daniel Drinkwater were in midfield, and Antonio Conte gave Michy Batshuayi(!!!) a rare start.
That’s the cool thing about the Carabao Cup – no matter how marginalized a player is, in this competition, they can get some kind of chance to show they can still play football.
Line-Ups & Ratings
Caballero 7, Zappacosta 7, Rudiger 6.5, Ampadu 8, Cahill 7, Kenedy 8, Drinkwater 6.5, Fabregas 7.5, Willian 7.5 (Hazard 8), Pedro 6.5 (Bakayoko 6), Batshuayi 7.5 (Morata 8)
Subs Eduardo, Clarke-Salter, Bakayoko, Sterling, Hudson-Odoi, Hazard, Morata
Boruc 6.5, Smith 5.5, Simpson 6, S Cook 6.5, Francis 6, Fraser 6.5, Surman 6.5, Arter 7 (L Cook 6), Gosling 8, Mousset 7 (Wilson 6), Defoe 5 (Ibe 8)
Subs Ramsdale, Ake, Cook, Hyndman, Pugh, Ibe, Wilson
Ethan Ampadu showed in previous games this season he wasn’t shy of a tackle – which made starting him at center back against an EPL side slightly concerning. And he didn’t disappoint, clattering Jermain Defoe early on and getting a yellow card for it.
Despite the early booking though, he managed to stay on the pitch the full ninety plus minutes, and gave a really good account of himself in the heart of defence. Chelsea might have another serious prospect on their hands.
Kenedy’s Also The Future, Mr. Conte
Chelsea scored a really well-worked team goal in the 13th minute. Michy Batshuayi received the ball back to goal in the final third, held it up a second, then hooked it behind him for Kenedy, who had drifted inside from the left wing.
Kenedy took the ball right to drag the opposition defence out of position, then back heeled the ball into the space they’d vacated, releasing Cesc Fabregas for a one-on-one with the keeper.
Fabregas had the option to try and beat Boruc himself, but he showed unselfishness and characteristic vision to pass across goal for Willian, who only had to side-foot into an empty net.
It was fast, beautiful football from everyone involved, but Kenedy made this goal. Mr. Conte probably needs to realize, he might have something special on his hands in the young Brazilian winger.
Good Defending, Or More Missed Chances?
Jordon Ibe replaced Defoe a few minutes after the goal – the veteran striker appeared to have been injured during the earlier clash with Ampadu. Ibe dribbled in and tried a shot soon after but it screwed wide. Batshuayi had a couple of good chances inside the first half hour, but both times the Bournemouth defenders slid in to disrupt or block his shots.
Then he made an excellent try at rolling Simon Francis to get a shot off in the six-yard area, but as he turned, Adam Smith’s arm made contact with his face. It didn’t seem intentional, probably just an unlucky contact but it might have been given.
Five minutes before halftime, Kenedy dispossessed Smith in midfield and broke forward on the counter. He had the chance to put Batshuayi in on goal for number two, but hesitated too long and in the end appeared caught in two minds – he went for it himself and completely skied his shot.
In the second half Bournemouth came forward with intent and Chelsea appeared to sit back a little bit trying to guard the lead. It was a risky tactic especially with a single goal margin, and it almost led to disaster in the end.
Ibe had an early cross cut out by Ampadu. Francis tried a header from a corner, but it wound up an easy save for Caballero. Ibe created another opportunity on the hour, getting past both Zappacosta and Rudiger on the left before cutting back to Mousset, but Ampadu had the French striker closely marked and blocked his shot.
A few minutes later Mousset got past Drinkwater and Ampadu but the ball got away from him. Dan Gosling reached it first and tried a shot, but maybe Cahill was close enough that it put him off, it was completely wide. If it was on target though, that was probably the equalizer.
Chelsea had a genuine penalty call on 68 minutes, when Kenedy did a rainbow flick and tried to run around Smith. The defender put both his hands in his face to stop him and Kenedy went down. The push may not have been enough to cause a fall, but the ref probably should have given a penalty and a booking for Smith’s illegally obstructing the attacker.
Conte brought on Bakayoko, Hazard and Morata and switched to 3-5-2 but Bournemouth continued to threaten, and threaten… until a minute before the end of normal time. After a long throw in, Ibe set up Dan Gosling on the edge of the box. This time the finish was perfect. Gosling curled a brilliant shot right of Caballero for 1 – 1.
Morata Found His Boots Again
The game looked like it was going to extra time – but apparently nobody told Alvaro Morata, who just two minutes later, sadly ruined the Cherries’ comeback with a really, really inconvenient goal.
Well he might have scored it, but this goal was really all about Eden Hazard. He blazed into the box straight from the kick-off to receive a long cross from Davide Zappacosta.
Then duplicating Kenedy, having made himself the decoy Hazard back-heeled for Morata, who was steaming in behind him to whip it off Boruc and into the net. 2 – 1! It was the ultimate sucker punch, both the move specifically and the goal in the context of the match.
Bournemouth Had No Reason To Fear Coming Forward
Chelsea had a great first half, but they didn’t really stamp authority on the game in terms of the scoreline. In the second half they let Bournemouth attack them without retaliation – not enough counter-attacking, something that’s missing a little bit from Chelsea’s game compared with last season. They didn’t give their visitors a reason to fear coming forward. But for a bit of luck and quality at the end of the game, it might have cost them tonight.
Final Score Chelsea 2 – 1 Bournemouth
Thumbnail image courtesy of: Caught Offside
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