Ampadu excels in Chelsea defense as Blues move on to Carabao Cup semis
Chelsea edged through to the Carabao Cup semifinals by beating Bournemouth 2-1 in a nerve-jangling encounter at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
After Willian put the London club in front with a tap-in early in the first half, Blues supporters were hopeful that more goals might follow, but just like Saturday's 1-0 home Premier League win against Southampton, they were left frustrated as their team toiled against inferior opposition. Dan Gosling's last-gasp equaliser ordinarily should have sent the match into extra time, but the Cherries' lack of concentration after their goal was punished when Chelsea substitute Alvaro Morata scored the winner moments later.
When it comes to cup ties, there can only be one winner. Chelsea won and despite what has to go down as a lackadaisical performance, that is all that matters.
Conte will be furious with his team's inability to kill games off early from an advantageous position. It's getting to be a recurring theme for the Italian, who clearly hasn't figured out a solution to the problem just yet.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Scampering around irately in his technical area, Conte arguably expended more energy than Willian and Michy Batshuayi combined. Credit to the Chelsea manager for addressing the waywardness of the duo by substituting them, and a big pat on the back to the Italian for giving Ethan Ampadu another chance to show what he can do and for bringing on big guns Morata and Eden Hazard to finish the job.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 6 -- Chelsea's reserve keeper was a spectator for the entire first half and the lack of focus this brought with it showed in the second period when Bournemouth had a go at the Blues and Caballero's lack of presence failed to inspire confidence in the defence in front of him.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 6 -- A game of two halves for the Germany international, who has been sparingly used by Conte since his big-money summer move from Roma. Commanding in the first period, Rudiger struggled after the break as Bournemouth applied pressure and eventually worked their way to an equaliser.
DF Ethan Ampadu, 9 -- With Chelsea's breakthrough star of the season 21-year-old Andreas Christensen handed a rest by Conte, fans' focus rested on another talented academy graduate in Ampadu. Cool and composed, the 17-year-old played with a precocious maturity that rivalled and possibly exceeded Christensen's. Already a fully fledged Wales international, Ampadu looks set to have a stellar career ahead of him.
DF Gary Cahill, 6 -- A wise head among younger defensive teammates, skipper Cahill was a commanding presence when life was easy for Chelsea in the first half but was culpable perhaps of being too complacent later on in the game when the Blues could have been punished by a more wily side for their carelessness.
MF Davide Zappacosta, 6 -- Mastered the right flank and linked up well with Pedro and Willian but lacked the cut through to make a telling contribution to the game. Booked for going through on Ryan Fraser on the hour mark, a caution that restricted his competitiveness thereafter.
MF Danny Drinkwater, 7 -- Tethered pretty much to the base of Chelsea's midfield, Drinkwater put in a tigerish shift and arguably looked more of a leader on the pitch than Cahill.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 7 -- Blew hot and cold for much of the contest. A class player, Fabregas had the vision to orchestrate Willian's goal but there was a laziness to his overall play that will no doubt have brought with it a reprimand from Conte.
MF Kenedy, 6 -- Flattered to deceive on the left flank, Kenedy was involved in Willian's goal but like his countryman failed to convince that he can be anything other than a bit-part player when Conte has to pick a Chelsea team to stand up and be counted.
FW Willian 6 -- A tap-in goal that gave Chelsea the lead was pretty much Willian's sole positive contribution in a game that the Brazil international looked bizarrely disinterested in. Lack of commitment is never normally a criticism that can be levelled at the 29-year-old, but his carelessness occasionally put his teammates under pressure so much so that Conte replaced him on the hour mark.
FW Pedro, 6 -- Pedro resembled a clockwork toy. Unbridled energy to start with followed by a gradual winding down, which dwindled to nothing and a substitution.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 6 -- Like Willian, Batshuayi's only positive involvement in the game was concertinaed into the move that led to Chelsea's opener. Unfortunately, the striker failed to make any additional impression, which only served to underline the growing belief among Blues fans that Conte has been right in not trusting him to stand in for Morata in the Premier League.
FW Eden Hazard, 8 -- Class always tells in the end. It may only have been a cameo role, but Hazard took advantage of Bournemouth's negligence after their equaliser to rinse their defence and tee up Morata for the winner. Job done.
MF Tiemoue Bakayoko, 7 -- Replaced Pedro on the hour and slotted into midfield as Conte switched tactics. Robust performance from a player who has clearly regained confidence after a troubling period.
FW Alvaro Morata, NR -- Conte kept his big gun in reserve until last and the Blues record signing duly obliged with the winner. Enough said, really.
Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco