It was the experienced heads in a distinctly inexperienced team that ensured Chelsea’s safe passage to the next round of the Carabao Cup, as Reece James, Marc Guehi and Billy Gilmour all made their senior debuts. Minutes were also handed out to 17 year-olds Ian Maatsen and Faustino Anjorin with the Blues romping home to a comprehensive 7-1 victory.
Ross Barkley and Michy Batshuayi, two players cast aside by Frank Lampard’s youthful ventures this season, both got themselves on the scoresheet within just seven minutes. A sweet run and finish had fans dreaming of the Barkley resurgence promised to us during pre-season, before Batshuayi continued his glorious cup streak with a swivelled strike into the bottom corner – a goal made all the more sentimental by James’ assist.
Grimsby had packed the Shed End to the rafters and they were duly rewarded for their arduous trip down to London with a belting finish from childhood fan Matt Green who collected a long ball before looping a volley over the head of a motionless Willy Caballero. The goal went to highlight Chelsea’s defensive frailties yet again as Kurt Zouma lost his marker Green, and another clean sheet went begging.
Even if the neutrals were holding out hope of another Bradford style upset the result never looked in doubt and Pedro virtually made the game safe from the penalty spot once Zouma had been hauled down by hero turned villain Green.
Chelsea had been relentless in the first-half and the tidy possession play of Gilmour had the fans on their feet, as his deep ball progression was interspersed with the rampaging overlaps of Marcos Alonso and James whilst Hudson-Odoi and Pedro added the silky finesse to each move with neat flicks and faints.
There was no let-up in the second half as every player in blue tried to bask in the radiant optimism omitted from every orifice of the ground. Christian Pulisic, a man carrying with him a great weight of expectation, was unlucky to see his positive runs go unrewarded as a result of some poor finishing both from himself and his teammates.
James’ deliveries had already produced a timely assist for Batshuayi, and the Englishman was at it again after the break, floating a cross to the back post where Zouma extended a leg and poked home to more than atone for his earlier lapse in concentration.
At this point, the academy prospects began to turn up the heat and Hudson-Odoi so nearly caught out Grimsby keeper’ James McKeown with a cross-cum-shot that was dipping dangerously under the crossbar before McKeown’s intervention.
Having bought on Maatsen and Anjorin for their first experience of senior football, it was then James’s moment to write his name in lights curling home a superb 20 yard shot to cap a perfect nights work for the youngster and have the rested Cesar Azpilicueta looking even more nervously over his shoulder.
Batshuayi, who has now scored two-plus goals in a single league cup match on three separate occasions, then collected a Pulisic lay off before firing home emphatically. Hudson-Odoi then provided the icing on the cake for a rampant Chelsea side, as he wriggled free of his marker and shot low past McKeown.
Although a clean sheet was not forthcoming, Chelsea made light work of their opponents and possessed great pace and ruthlessness in their attacking play with several players coming to the fore and more than exceeding what was expected of them. With both James and Hudson-Odoi already having established their quality it was the turn of Gilmour to add his name to the growing list of young stars getting their chance under Lampard. His performance was tidy and combative displaying both his technical prowess whilst also proving to be an adaptable option across the midfield.
Fans could’ve expected nothing more than what they saw against Grimsby it was the thrill a minute goal-fest it promised and whilst a clean sheet would’ve capped an almost perfect display there were more than enough positives to take into the Blues’ very winnable run of games.