Matchwinner Willian gets 8/10 as Chelsea get narrow win over Everton
Chelsea reached the quarterfinals of the Carabao Cup with an edgy 2-1 win over Everton at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Antonio Rudiger opened the scoring midway through what was a dominant first half for the Blues. At the break it seemed unlikely that the Toffees, with temporary manager and former player David Unsworth in charge following Monday's sacking of Ronald Koeman, would get into the game.
Unsworth evidently inspired his team during the interval as Everton were a different proposition in the second half. They came close to equalising on several occasions before Willian doubled Chelsea's lead in stoppage time. Moments later, Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a consolation for the visitors, a just reward for their efforts, but a case of too little too late.
Progress in the cup was coupled with an eye-catching display from 17-year old midfielder Ethan Ampadu. He made his first start for Chelsea and had Blues supporters purring at the final whistle. Another plus was that summer signing Danny Drinkwater was finally fit to start his Stamford Bridge career. The former Leicester midfielder looks like a good replacement for the injured N'Golo Kante.
Chelsea's failure to keep a clean sheet for the sixth game in a row will be a source of frustration and concern for manager Antonio Conte; it certainly was for Blues fans. When Everton upped the ante after the break, familiar cracks started appearing in Chelsea's backline which, regardless of personnel, appears to lack cohesion once pressure is applied.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Conte deserves credit for the way he blended youth with experience for this cup tie. Ampadu played with verve but was clearly working to the manager's game plan as was fellow academy graduate Charly Musonda. He has been openly critical about the lack of chances afforded him at the Bridge. Both benefited from playing alongside more-experienced players.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 8 -- Having been a spectator for the entire first half, Caballero suddenly found himself in the thick of the action in the second period and made a string of outstanding saves to keep Everton at bay.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 -- A commanding first-half shift was augmented by a fabulous headed goal from the Germany international that set Chelsea up for victory. Laboured defensively in the second period but was always involved and made several decent blocks and tackles. He did earn a yellow card in the process, however, for over-committing himself to the cause.
DF Andreas Christensen, 6 -- Like Rudiger, Christensen cut a cool, calm and collected figure in the first half as Chelsea dominated possession. He became slightly flustered on occasion after the break as Everton took the game by the scruff of the neck but made every effort to regain lost possession. Worth remembering the Denmark international is still only 21 years old, his experience is building with every game.
DF Gary Cahill, 5 -- Looked solid enough early on, but once again had supporters' nerves jangling once pressure was brought to bear on Chelsea's defence.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 7 -- Made some storming runs down the flank in the first half, linking up well with Willian in particular. Less effective in the second period.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 7 -- Drinkwater's Chelsea debut has taken a long time to come around given the midfielder's problem injury, but he looked composed on the ball and provided an experienced foil for Ampadu. On this evidence, the Blues may get to see full value for the £35 million they paid for his services.
MF Ethan Ampadu, 8 -- At times it was hard to believe that Ampadu is just 17 years old. Conte afforded the youngster the full game and his faith was rewarded with a steadfast performance comprising deft touches, solid tackles and an eye for position that drew applause from the home crowd every time he won the ball.
MF Kenedy, 6 -- Showed some decent touches in the opening phase of the game, but was overshadowed by the greater willingness of the Blues players around him.
FW Willian, 8 -- A patchy start to the season came to an end with an energetic display from the Brazil international, who carried Chelsea's greatest threat going forward. Willian's zest for the game was rewarded with a fine late goal which sealed the Blues win.
FW Charly Musonda Jr, 7 -- Bristled with exuberant energy in the first half and showed a lovely touch on the ball when floating an inch-perfect cross onto Rudiger's head for Chelsea's opening goal.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 6 -- After Saturday's two-goal heroics off the bench against Watford, expectations were high as Batshuayi was afforded a start against Everton. Had to wait until the 77th minute for a clear chance to score, but having beaten Toffees keeper Jordan Pickford, was denied by a last-ditch Phil Jagielka clearance.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 -- Replaced Drinkwater shortly after the hour mark and in the end did what he does best by providing the assist for Willian's goal.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Replaced Musonda in the 70th minute but didn't see much of the ball as Everton pressed for an equaliser.
FW Alvaro Morata, NR -- Replaced Batshuayi in the 85th minute.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco