Walsall 1-4 Chelsea - Report
23/09/2015 - 19:45
The Saddlers run in this seasons Capital One Cup was brought to an unsurprising end at the hands of holders and Premier League champions Chelsea. The visitors boss, Jose Mourinho, stuck to his word and fielded a side strong enough to start any Premier League game, and in the end their class shone through, but not before the Saddlers had put up a hell of a fight and given the Blues a night perhaps tougher than they were expecting.
Chelsea started the brighter and could have taken the lead in the opening 2 minutes, Brazilian forward Kenedy squaring the ball across the face of goal forcing James O`Connor to make a tremendous block to prevent Falcao from having a tap in, before Neil Etheridge saved Ramires tame follow up effort.
It took until the 10th minute for Chelsea to take the lead, and unfortunately we were masters of our own downfall. A Romaine Sawyers pass back to Etheridge saw the eccentric keeper play a poor pass to Paul Downing who was promptly dispossessed by the impressive Kenedy. Given the freedom of Bescot to cross the ball, he picked out Ramires who beat Rico Henry to the header to put the away side in front.
It could have been worse moments later. Kieron Morris this time being caught in possession by Ramires who with a single pass had Falcao one on one with Etheridge, who did well to take the pace off the shot before O`Connor again cleared the ball off the line.
A further goal line clearance was to follow when Falcao, who was picked out by Mikel this time, rounded Etheridge only to see his narrow angled shot headed away by Downing, before O`Connor managed to put enough of his body in the way to deflect Remy`s follow up over the bar.
The second goal did arrive a few minutes before the break; Ramires played in Remi who produced an excellent first time finish even the absent Tom Bradshaw would have been proud of.
Walsall to their credit didn`t let their heads drop and found themselves back in the game on the stroke of half time; a deflected free kick from Milan Lalkovic, who had been giving Branislav Ivanovic all manner of problems for the entire first half, was only parried away by Asmir Begovic in the Chelsea goal, with the rebound being hooked in by O`Connor. The Saddlers centre back revealed after the match that he`d lost his grandfather on Tuesday morning which made his performance all the more impressive and the goal was a fitting tribute. He`d have certainly been proud looking down on how his Grandson played last night.
The goal had kept things interesting going into the second half, but 6 minutes after the restart the visitors restored their two goal lead. This time it was Rico Henry`s turn to be dispossessed and John Obi Mikel played in Gerard for his first senior goal for Chelsea.
A brief interruption when the on-pitch sprinkler came on provided the nights comedy moment, although it`s highest moment of quality came from Romaine Sawyers. Picking the ball up after Begovic had flapped at a Saddlers corner, he produced wonderful skill to beat Remy and then Mikel (twice) before playing a beautiful lofted pass with the outside of his boot that Sam Mantom volleyed wide.
The match was put to bed in injury time when substitute Pedro cut inside and fired past Etheridge to give the scoreline a look that suggested the game was easier than it was for Chelsea. To be fair, you always felt that if we`d got too close they`d have been able to go up a couple of gears and score a goal or two if they needed too, while we played well enough not to have our confidence dented by being beaten, but didn`t really get close enough for Saturday`s home game with Crewe to fall into the "after the Lord Mayor`s show" category.
As long as this match doesn`t affect our league form you accept it for what it was; a very good performance against vastly superior opposition in a game we were always unlikely to win.