Chelsea confirmed their place in the Carabao Cup semi-final with a narrow 2-1 win over a plucky Bournemouth side, while Manchester United were shocked by a loss against Championship side, Bristol City, via the same scoreline.
The Blues have been drawn alongside Arsenal in the semi-final in a repeat of last year’s FA Cup Final, while the Robins have been handed another tough tie as they face Manchester City over two legs.
Chelsea fans would have been disappointed to see Man City squeeze past Leicester City thanks to a penalty shoot-out on Tuesday night but would have been equally happy to see Jose Mourinho and Man United crash out against lower-league opposition.
Dominant first 45 minutes
Antonio Conte decided to make eight changes for the match because of the busy festive schedule his side are facing over the next few weeks. This paid dividends after just 13 minutes as a well-worked team move resulted in the first goal of the evening. Michy Batushuayi played the ball into Kenedy. who delivered a beautiful back-heeled pass to Cesc Fabregas and the Spaniard squared the ball to Willian, who was on hand to fire it into the net in front of the Shed End.
The visitors showed glimpses of attacking football but Jordon Ibe squandered a half chance halfway through the first half. It was then Batshuayi’s turn to miss a chance of his own after Pedro slipped him on the edge of the six-yard box; Steve Cook did fantastically to get his body in the way of the ball that may have doubled the hosts’ advantage. Kenedy also had the opportunity to make it 2-0 but he dragged his shot well wide after dispossessing Adam Smith 45 yards from goal. The first half drew to a close with the Blues on top but not necessarily in a commanding position.
Despite only having a single-goal advantage going into the second period, it was clear that Conte had instructed his side to invite pressure from Bournemouth. The Cherries quickly grew into the game because they had more space to use and began to trouble Chelsea’s slight lead. Ibe and Ryan Fraser led the visitors’ fightback with blistering ventures down both wings and it was the former who came closest, seeing his shot from the edge of the box skim the outside of Willy Caballero’s post.
Conte then introduced Tiemoue Bakayoko, Eden Hazard and Alvaro Morata in an attempt to take control of the match once again. However, this backfired in the final minute as it was Morata’s poor defensive header that allowed Ibe the space and time to pick out Dan Gosling 20 yards from goal. The English midfielder perfectly curled an effort inside the far post and sent the travelling fans wild.
Their jubilation was short-lived and the possibility of an extra 30 minutes of football obviously forced `Chelsea into gear. Just over a minute later, a trademark Hazard back-heel found Morata inside the box, who poked the ball beyond Artur Boruc and into the back of the net.
It was far from a vintage Blues showing but it got the job done without needing the dreaded period of extra-time. 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu stood out for the hosts in what was a very assured performance, especially after he was shown a yellow card in the opening couple of minutes. Conte was happy to see his side progress in a competition they have won five times.