Chelsea survived a late scare as they booked a place in the third round of the EFL Cup. Antonio Conte’s first cup game in England was a struggle, despite facing League One Bristol Rovers. Michy Batshuayi and Victor Moses had the Blues ahead, but Peter Hartley pulled one back. The Belgian striker added a second before half time, but Ellis Harrison’s penalty meant the hosts had a nervy second half before making it through.
Conte made several changes for this clash. Most notable was Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s new role up front. He played alongside Batshuayi in a 4-2-4, with Diego Costa left on the bench. Ola Aina came in for John Terry, while Cesc Fabregas made his first start of the season. Both Oscar and Eden Hazard were left out, as was N’Golo Kante.
There was little sign of those changes early on, with Loftus-Cheek hitting the post with a long range strike. He seemed to be enjoying his forward role, as he played as a deep lying attacker here. That saw him play a part in the first goal of the game, as he played in Nemanja Matic who crossed the ball for Batshuayi’s goal.
Victor Moses doubled the lead soon after, as he tapped home from a few yards out. The Nigerian winger has been away on loan for the past two seasons, but he is finally getting a chance to impress for the Blues. So far he seems like he’s firmly part of Conte’s plans this season.
Conte’s men had their lead cut in half when Hartley scored from a free kick. That goal didn’t have them down for long, as Batshuayi struck just minutes later. Fabregas played in Loftus-Cheek, and the youngster found his strike partner in the box who made it 3-1 before half-time.
Early in the second half, Pedro clumsily gave away a penalty. Harrison dispatched that, which let the League One side back into the game. They were pushing for 40 minutes, but the introductions of Eden Hazard, John Terry and Oscar helped the Blues into the third round. While it was a tough night overall, Conte was incredibly pleased with his new striking option after the game.
“I think he has the right characteristics to play in this role because he has it all,” said the manager. “He is physically strong and he is very good playing from back (to goal) and also with good technique he sees the goal very well and has a good shot.
“He played a good game and with good intensity and he did what I wanted. In defensive situations, he became a midfield player and when attacking he became a forward. I’m happy with his commitment and his attitude. I think he has great potential as a player.”
While Conte has mentioned the need to strengthen the squad, it looks like he might have found a new man to rival Costa and Batshuayi up front.
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