Levi Colwill was delighted to help Chelsea progress to the fourth round of the Carabao Cup with victory over Brighton & Hove Albion, and credited the hard-fought win to a much improved second-half performance by the Blues.
Chelsea hosted Brighton in the third round of the Carabao Cup and faced tough opponents, who were determined to make life difficult for us with a relentless high press, but ultimately it was the home side which triumphed at Stamford Bridge, as Nicolas Jackson’s strike after half-time secured a 1-0 win, setting up another home tie with Blackburn Rovers in the next stage.
That victory and progress to the next round was far from certain for long periods, though, especially during a difficult first half, before we began to take control of the match after the break. Levi Colwill felt it was simply a case of the Blues showing their true selves in the second half, after not hitting their stride in the first 45 minutes.
‘It definitely wasn’t an easy game,’ admitted Colwill. ‘In the first half we gave away way too many chances, on another day we could have been two or three goals down. However, in the second half we came out a lot stronger.
‘From then we had loads of chances ourselves and we could have been two or three up. But it was a good game and we capped it with a win.
‘I think in the first half we showed them way too much respect and in the second half, we were Chelsea. We played our football, we attacked more. I thought it was so much better.’
The difference between the two halves was notable, with Brighton’s energy denying Chelsea time on the ball and shrinking the pitch, before we began to enjoy success opening up the space in the opposition half and between the lines.
Having spent last season with the Seagulls during an impressive loan spell, the relentless pressing employed by Brighton at the Bridge came as no surprise to Colwill, but he was pleased with the way we found a solution.
‘I definitely knew it was coming,’ he added. ‘They set up to press and sometimes you’ve just got to be a team, and miss the press out with the early ball. I think in the second half we did that a lot better. It stretches the play when you do that and it does allow you to start making the passes and play our game.
‘It was definitely difficult in the first half when they were pressing us at the back, but once we started stretching the pitch a bit more, maybe with a few more long balls, we started being able to control the game a bit more. That definitely helped us in the second half, so it was good.’
Colwill had already alluded to the fact we could have extended our lead in that second half, with Jackson unlucky not to add to his tally when first he was denied by an impressive save from Brighton keeper Bart Verbruggen and then the offside flag, despite replays appearing to show he was onside before slotting in from Cole Palmer’s pass.
All of that could have added to a sense for the Chelsea players that fate was against them and it was going to be one of those days, especially after finding ourselves coming out of games without the result our performance deserved a few times so far this season.
‘I’ve seen the replay and he looks onside to me,’ continued Levi. ‘Maybe in the back of your mind you worry it might be one of those days, but I knew we were going to have more chances and like I said we could have been 2-0 or 3-0 up. You can’t let your head drop and think like that, you’ve got to keep pushing the team and making sure you keep going at it to try and get another.’
Those comments are yet another example of the impressive maturity shown by the young defender this season, in his assured start to life in the senior team at Chelsea since returning from that loan at Brighton in the summer, having started every game for the Blues in all competitions so far in 2023/24.
‘It’s definitely gone well, I can’t complain! I’m just trying to help the team every game I can, show my attributes and try and win. That’s all I’m doing to be honest. To be able to play this many games has been a real blessing, but I’ve just got to keep going.’
That has made Colwill a mainstay of our defence, either at left-back or in the centre, as he was in last night’s win, partnering Axel Disasi with Marc Cucurella and Ben Chilwell coming into the side as Malo Gusto’s suspension added to the injuries which continue to keep Reece James, Benoit Badiashile, Trevoh Chalobah, Wesley Fofana and others out of action.
Mauricio Pochettino made five changes to team to face Brighton, including those two at the back, but Colwill believes no matter who is in the starting line-up, the team is strong and the plan remains the same. That leaves him hopeful of building on last night’s win to gather some momentum when we return to Premier League action away at neighbours Fulham in our next game on Monday evening.
‘It doesn’t matter who’s coming in or out, as a team we’ve still got the same goal all together, and that’s to keep a clean sheet and win games. So I think, definitely when we’ve got so many good players, players can come in and out and it doesn’t make a difference. We showed that today.
‘Hopefully we take that into Monday and get the three points at Fulham. We want to get exactly the same again, another clean sheet and another win.’