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Report: Chelsea 3 Bristol Rovers 2

The winning start to the season was extended to the EFL Cup campaign by two Michy Batshuayi goals on his first Chelsea start and a strike from Victor Moses.

However the Blues, who were playing our first game at this stage of the League Cup for 20 years, came up against a resilient Rovers side, and although our chances came at regular intervals during the first half on a hot and steamy night at Stamford Bridge, they proved harder to find in the second period.

We had gone into a 2-0 lead before the West Country team scored their first and although 3-1 was the half-time lead, a Rovers penalty early in the second half meant this game was never comfortable.

Ola Aina (pictured below) made his Chelsea debut at left-back and he did so surrounded by defensive know-how with Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic the centre-backs and Cesar Azpilicueta at right-back.


Asmir Begovic was in goal and Nemanja Matic was paired with Cesc Fabregas who was handed his first start of the campaign. The full debut for Batshuayi followed on from his effective showings as a sub in the first two league games, and with Antonio Conte opting for a 4-2-4 shape on this occasion, Ruben Loftus-Cheek adopted the position up front he had been used in during pre-season.

Moses, from the right flank, wasn’t too far away from putting the ball onto the toe of the 20-year-old in front of goal within the opening five minutes.  

There was soon a case for handball against the Rovers defence as Batshuayi hooked the ball towards the Shed End goal and moments later, Ivanovic had a stab at the target stopped by Steve Mildenhall, the visiting keeper.  

Batshuayi is winning fans fast and he caused further problems on 10 minutes, leading to a Moses attempt which was deflected for a corner.

The closest we came in the first quarter-of-an-hour to breaking the cup-tie deadlock was the result of Pedro persistence. The left-winger had a shot which curled narrowly the over the bar.

Three minutes later Batshuayi should have opened the scoring. Turning sharply and played through by a deft Loftus-Cheek touch, our newest striker dragged his low shot wide. Loftus-Cheek then thumped the ball onto the post. Surely it wasn’t to be one of those nights?


Moses, who had often stuck close to the touchline in his pre-season starts, was adding his presence in the centre of the pitch on occasions. One of his runs there led to a free-kick which Ivanovic headed wide. There were 27 minutes on the clock at that point and we would only need to await for another two to pass before the opening goal arrived.

Loftus-Cheek fed Matic’s run into the area and when the Serbian’s centre took a touch off a defender, Batshuayi was on the spot to react sharply and lash the ball into the net.  

It was the Belgian’s second goal in four days and just two minutes later, Moses had his first of the campaign. He too found the net first time but from much closer range after a Pedro cross had been returned across goal by another Spanish international – Azpilicueta having joined the attack.


It appeared to be all plain sailing now but then Peter Hartley, who scored a comparable goal at the weekend, met a Rovers free-kick into our penalty area with the perfect header to beat Begovic and it was suddenly 2-1. The previously toothless visitors from League One had only just won their first corner prior to that. Begovic had been a near spectator.

Buoyed by their goal, the Bristolians sent another header wide, this time from striker Ellis Harrison.

With four minutes to go to the interval, Batshuayi restored the two-goal advantage when he met a Loftus-Cheek centre from similar range to Moses’s goal. Fabregas had been involved in the fruitful attack and he then had a shot saved before the players headed down the tunnel for a half-time cool down.

Within just four minutes of the restart, Rovers, who had made two half-time substitutions, pegged the score back again. A cute ball over our rearguard with the team pushed up for a corner, gave Stuart Sinclair the chance to sprint for goal. Pedro tried to intervene but at the cost of a penalty, a decision that on first glance looked debatable. Harrison smashed home from the spot.

At the other end, Moses attacked the full-back but fired wide before Harrison skimmed the top of the target for the visitors, who were now giving as good as they were getting. Begovic saved from Easter.

‘Come on Chelsea,’ encouraged the Matthew Harding End. The response took time to come with Moses, Loftus-Cheek and Matic all shooting wide.

 

Hazard, Terry and Oscar were steadily introduced, the captain on for Aina who unfortunately had to hobble off.

Terry was almost able to bundle the ball in after an Ivanovic header was saved, and Batshuayi was denied a hat-trick by an offside flag, but the first-half goals proved enough.

The single-goal margin victories keep coming. We discover our third round opponents when the draw is made on Wednesday night.

Chelsea (4-2-4): Begovic; Azpilicueta, Cahill, Ivanovic, (c), Aina (Terry 78); Fabregas, Matic; Moses, Batshuayi, Loftus-Cheek (Oscar 82), Pedro (Hazard 75).
Unused subs Courtois, Chalobah, Solanke, Diego Costa.
Scorers Batshuayi 29, 41, Moses 31
Booked
 Pedro 47

Rovers (4-2-3-1): Mildenhall; Leadbitter, Lockyer (c), Hartley, Brown; Sinclair, O Clarke; Bodin (Easter h-t), Lines, James (Taylor h-t); Harrison (Gaffney 66).
Unused subs Puddy, J Clarke, Montano, Broom.
Scorers Hartley 34, Harrison 49.
Booked Easter 71, Taylor 85

Referee Keith Stroud
Crowd 39,266

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