Chelsea advanced to the last 16 of the Carabao Cup after a hard fought 1-0 victory against Brighton & Hove Albion.
Both teams started the game well and tested their opposing goalkeepers with some early efforts.
Robert Sanchez nearly gifted the Seagulls the lead when he passed straight to Joao Pedro whilst trying to play out from the back. Luckily for the Spaniard, Pedro could only dink his effort narrowly over the bar with the goal gaping.
Cole Palmer stung Bart Verbruggen gloves at the other end before Brighton spurned another golden opportunity with Sanchez saving well from Ansu Fati, after initially creating the issue by playing a lax pass to Moises Caicedo.
It remained goalless at the break.
The Blues took an early lead after the interval courtesy of striker Jackson. Ian Maatsen played a clever ball in behind for Palmer, who did well to turn in a tight space and feed Jackson who held his nerve to slot past Verbruggen.
Jackson nearly nabbed a second goal ten minutes later after some good play from Mykhailo Mudryk, but was denied by the boot of Verbruggen on this occasion.
Jackson put the ball in the net again, but was denied by the offside flag this time, in what was an incredibly tight call. Solly March forced a strong save from Sanchez at the other end as the game reached its climax.
Pervis Estupinan sliced an effort wide, as the visitors went in search of a late equaliser. Pedro then blasted over from close range, as the Blues saw out seven minutes of added time to pick up a morale boosting win in the Carabao Cup.
Here are five things Absolute Chelsea learned from Wednesday’s win in the Carabao Cup.
1) Chelsea in the last 16
After a hard fought match, Chelsea picked up a much needed win against Brighton on Wednesday night.
But, beyond the vital confidence boost victory provides, the Blues also find themselves in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup.
Although Chelsea will likely be outside bets at this stage, regarding a potential cup win, there is cause for optimism for fans. Especially after the team showed it’s ability to grind out vital victories as they managed against Brighton.
2) Jackson gets his goal
After some poor attacking displays in recent week, Stamford Bridge breathed a sigh of relief when Nicolas Jackson dispatched his effort early in the second half.
Jackson has struggled for form and confidence in recent weeks, with Blues fans hoping that his goal will do him the world of good, although he will miss the weekend’s match against Fulham through suspension.
Jackson was much improved after his goal, and was denied another, later in proceedings through a questionable offside decision.
Jackson and Chelsea will hope that he can build on his promising display to help aid the Blues attacking woes when he returns from suspension.
3) Cole Palmer full debut
Palmer made his first start in Chelsea blue on Wednesday evening. Palmer was trusted with playing in the number ten position, flanked by Mudryk and Maatsen and showed real promise in the role.
Palmer looked dangerous with his clever passing and composure, not least to assist Jackson where he also showed fantastic close control to turn in the box and feed the striker. A quality that has been sorely missed at the club so far this season.
Beyond his on the ball quality, Palmer also worked his socks off for the team, pressing high and tracking back to win tackles. There is naturally still plenty of room for Palmer to improve, but Mauricio Pochettino will be encouraged by his performance.
4) Sanchez’s distribution
Despite the loss against Aston Villa at the weekend, Sanchez generally acquitted himself well in a promising performance, however he was far more shaky on Wednesday night.
Sanchez’s distribution was well below par against Brighton, and it nearly cost his team on multiple occasions. Sanchez passed the ball straight to Pedro midway through the first half, with the striker inexplicably chipping the ball over the bar. Whilst Sanchez was also forced into stopping Fati from close range after putting Caicedo into all sorts of trouble with a poor pass to kick off the Seagulls attack.
Beyond the glaring errors, there were a plethora of other occasions where Sanchez hoofed the ball out of play, or looked generally uncomfortable, with his confidence clearly taking a hit.
After some positive displays in recent weeks, Sanchez will want to move on from this display quickly.
5) Left-back fever
Pochettino started with three conventional left backs against Brighton in the Carabao Cup, along with Levi Colwill who played in the position against Aston Villa on Sunday.
Ben Chilwell, Marc Cucurella and Maatsen all put on solid showings, with the latter two showing their versatility to play out of position at right back and right wing respectively. Marc Cucurella looked particularly fired up against his former employers.
Despite the novelty of playing with three left-backs, it does highlight the issue Pochettino has of giving all three regular minutes over the course of the season.
It will be interesting to see who makes the shirt their own over the coming weeks.
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