Chelsea book place in Carabao Cup semi-final as weakened side has too much for Brentford

Jorginho celebrates his goal from the penalty spot

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Brentford v Chelsea score

The difference between Brentford and Chelsea, even an under-strength Chelsea, could be seen in the players who came off the visiting bench here. Thomas Tuchel has spent much of the past week complaining about the lack of options at his disposal, yet on this occasion he turned to the following five: Jorginho, N’Golo Kante, Mason Mount, Reece James and Christian Pulisic.

If Tuchel expected sympathy for the Covid-related issues that have disrupted his squad in his past few days, then he would not have found it in Brentford. His bench was the bench of European champions, and those stars of the world game proved to have too much quality against a Brentford team that remains in the process of adjusting to the demands of top-flight football.

They were without a senior striker, and had three academy kids in their starting line-up, but Chelsea are still Chelsea. A club of their stature will always cause problems for a team of Brentford’s resources. Especially at this time of year, when squads are stretched and players are feeling the burn of repeated action.

In the circumstances, it is understandable that Chelsea’s class took a while to show. But once it did, there was no questioning whether Tuchel’s side were worthy of their victory. They struck twice in the final 10 minutes, first through a Pontus Jansson own goal and then through a Jorginho penalty, to secure their place in the League Cup semi-finals. Next up is Tottenham Hotspur, and a mouthwatering reunion with former manager Antonio Conte.

Pontus Jansson's error proved costly

Credit: AFP

“A brilliant performance,” said Tuchel. “Very disciplined, very structured and within that, a lot of quality. Tottenham is nice for our fans, a derby, very difficult. We deserve to be there.”

There was encouragement, too, for the away supporters who have been wondering if or when another academy graduate would make his way into Tuchel’s thinking. Teenage forward Harvey Vale was the most impressive of their three debutants here, showing a speed and awareness that explains why he is regarded as one of the brighter talents in academy football.

The debuts for Vale (18), Jude Soonsup-Bell (17) and Xavier Simons (18) showed the extent of the fitness issue at Chelsea, although the strength of their team in the second half was clear for all to see. Tuchel’s side were reliant on goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga to save them in the first half, with Yoane Wissa and Mathias Jensen going close for Brentford, but they were totally dominant in the second, especially after Kante entered the game.

“They are European champions and third in the league,” said Thomas Frank, the Brentford head coach. “They have world class players. In these games it is the small margins and they did not go our way.”

Chelsea’s only clear chance of the first half had fallen to Vale, who headed tamely towards goal, and Brentford were arguably the better side of the opening exchanges. The substitutes changed the game, though, with James making the crucial intervention as the match entered its final stages.

Charging down the right, James whipped a fierce cross towards the near post. Jansson got there first, on the stretch, and his attempted clearance flew into his own net. The second goal arrived shortly afterwards, when Pulisic raced onto Mount’s pass before being tripped by Brentford goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez.

Jorginho appears to have rediscovered his touch from the penalty spot in recent weeks and his effort was business-like in its efficiency, much like Chelsea’s performance across the night as a whole. They were understrength and underprepared, but still more than good enough to get over the line on nights like this. 

Brentford v Chelsea stats

Brentford v Chelsea line-ups

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