Chelsea needed penalties to progress to the Quarter-finals of the EFL Cup, after a resilient Southampton restricted them in normal time.
Not what Chelsea were expecting
This did not turn out to be the match the Stamford Bridge crowd anticipated following the weekends demolition of Norwich and with Southampton having made nine changes to their own starting line up from the weekend, most notably without Chelsea loanee Armando Broja.
Saul Niguez, yet to make a mark in English football started the game, as did Ross Barkley who made his first start of the season for Chelsea in the front three alongside Hakim Ziyech – three players with a point to prove.
The Story of the first half
Chelsea started slowly in a largely untidy first half. Kai Havertz again occupied the ‘false nine’ position but was far from the commanding, bullying front man that is the archetypal Chelsea striker. Without his Germany team-mate Timo Werner in the side, Havertz often looked uncomfortable and gave the ball away twice in the first 20 minutes, shying away from the physical battle with the Southampton back line.
Despite a shot from Stuart Armstrong forcing a save from Kepa Arrizabalaga, the Brazilian Lynaco was arguably Southampton’s best player of the first half, stuffing out any opportunities for Chelsea and ensuring that it remained 0-0 for 44 minutes. But just before the break, Marcos Alonso, Chelsea’s captain for the evening won a corner and Kai Havertz headed in from Ziyech’s ball for a simple goal.
The Story of the Second Half
Southampton started the second half riled from having conceded the late goal and were level within two minutes of the restart through Che Adams who tapped in when Kepa spilled the ball at his feet following a save from a Kyle Walker-Peters shot. Chelsea almost responded immediately through another attempt from Havertz, clearly brimming with confidence from two goals in three games and now winning battles with Lynaco.
Fraser Forster made several good saves to keep out attempts from Havertz, Barkley and Hudson-Odoi, but Barkley and Ziyech’s chances were over on 67 minutes, having not done enough to impress manager Thomas Tuchel, as they were replaced by weekend goal scorers Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell.
Saul missed a great opportunity to put Chelsea ahead having made a fine connection with the ball on his left foot, but his shot skimmed past the wrong side of Forster’s left post. Moments later, a header from Will Smallbone forced a save from Kepa over the top of the bar, having been on the pitch no longer than 40 seconds following a flurry of Southampton substitutions.
It was end to end as the game went into the last 15 minutes when the Chelsea Academy’s last player of the year Tino Livramento came onto the pitch as a Southampton player to a warm reception, their fifth substitution replacing the injured Moussa Djenepo.
In the last ten minutes there were more chances for Chelsea who were attacking the Matthew Harding stand on the 25th anniversary of his death, but as the match entered the 90th minute, it was Southampton who looked more positive. Callum Hudson-Odoi hit a shot into the side-netting and Fraser Forster received a yellow card for time-wasting as the clock ticked towards a penalty shoot-out. Chelsea keeper Kepa insured his team would be in that shoot out as he kept Chelsea in the game as Southampton piled on the pressure with three consecutive corners in stoppage time.
There remained little between the sides in the penalty shoot-out with Theo Walcott’s penalty saved by Kepa and immediately after Mason Mount’s was saved spectacularly by Fraser Forster. Ben Chilwell did convert to capitalise on Will Smallbone’s erratic miss meaning that Reece James could send Chelsea into the next round just as he did in the last round against Aston Villa, and he didn’t disappoint.
Chelsea head into the next round!