Chelsea were pegged back twice, but ultimately prevailed, in a nervy League Cup second-round tie against Bristol Rovers.
Goals from Batshuayi and Moses set the ball rolling but Hartley pulled one back. It was Batshuayi again who restored Chelsea’s two-goal lead but Harrison cut it down to one again, but Chelsea held out for the remaining 40 minutes of the second half.
It means the Blues progress to the Third Round of the competition, the stage they normally have entered at for the last 20 years but for no European qualification this season.
Antonio Conte opted to use his first League Cup match not to blood young players — Aina and Loftus-Cheek started but Solanke and Chalobah would remain unused substitutes — but to give fringe players like Pedro, Fabregas and Moses a run-out.
The latter nearly provided the game’s first assist but was inches away from finding the feet of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was enjoying being the main man in a 4-2-4 formation usually afforded to Oscar.
Ivanovic, Moses himself and then Batshuayi all tested Mildenhall’s goal as Chelsea looked to assert their authority against a side two divisions lower, with Pedro fizzing a shot just over the bar soon after.
Loftus-Cheek went on to hit the post, not before Batshuayi dragged a shot wide when in a good opportunity.
But Batshuayi was not to be denied much longer. Matic roamed forward and found the Belgian to stab home from close range. It was a well-deserved goal, and from a well-deserved goal-scorer, with the 22-year-old performing well off the bench in the first two league games and seizing his opportunity when given the start by Conte.
One became two moments later from Victor Moses, who had an impressive enough pre-season to not be loaned out for the fourth season running. Pedro found Azpilicueta on the other wing, who fed Moses to lash home.
Complacency kicking in was apparent as Hartley pulled one back for the visitors just three minutes later, rising highest from a Bristol Rovers free-kick to beat Begovic.
But the quality of Batshuayi was for all to see. The 22-year-old raced onto a Loftus-Cheek pass and tucked in Chelsea’s third — and the whistle had not even been blown for half-time yet.
The topsy-turvy nature of the game continued in the second half with Bristol Rovers replying again, and this time all from a Chelsea corner. The visitors pounced from a loose ball and countered, and when Pedro conceded a penalty in his attempts to defend, Harrison buried his spot-kick in expert fashion.
Moses had more opportunities to make it four for Chelsea, but Conte grew increasingly anxious as the game wore on, as demonstrated by his substitution in of more experienced players in the form of Terry, Hazard and Oscar.
His side did in the end have enough steel to see off Darrell Clarke’s men.
What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!
Man of the Match
MICHY BATSHUAYI: Chelsea’s new summer recruit is certainly settling into life at SW6 well, putting in superb shifts when required from the bench in the league but, afforded the opportunity to lead the line today, the Belgian took the opportunity with two hands and with two goals. A fearsome predator who hunts for the ball at every opportunity and is a potent threat. 8/10
Conte was wary of Chelsea’s missed opportunities: “We must understand that when you have the opportunity to kill the game, you must kill the game. We created a lot of chances in the first half to score many goals. When you leave it open a situation like tonight can happen when you stay afraid of drawing the game until the end.”
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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