Chelsea secured safe passage through to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup with a 2-1 home win over manager-less Everton on Wednesday evening.
A sublime first-half header from Antonio Rudiger and a simply stunning second-half stoppage time strike courtesy of Willian was enough to see off the Merseysiders, even though Dominic Calvert-Lewin was able to grab a late conciliation just moments after the Brazilian had doubled the deficit.
The result leaves the Blues of London in the hat for the next round, but leaves the Blues of Liverpool still looking for their first win since the back end of September.
It was a quiet opening inside an expecting Stamford Bridge, considering the visitors’ current turmoil, with some fancy trickery from Davide Zappacosta and a long-range effort from Rudiger, the only action of note inside the first 25 minutes.
However, the almost chess-like contest finally gained some momentum as five minutes before the half-hour mark Rudiger found the back of the net with a simply stunning header to mark his first Chelsea goal since joining the club in the summer.
The 24-year-old was left unmarked at the back post as Charly Musonda’s cross floated past all inside the area before being lobbed back across goal and home by the German, who managed to direct his effort whilst running away from goal – an extremely difficult skill.
The remainder of the first half seemed to drift out, however, with neither side offering much, but the Toffees certainly started the brighter in the second, forcing Chelsea goalkeeper Willy Caballero into two impressive close-range saves from Wayne Rooney and Aaron Lennon.
They’ve just had to retake the kick-off because Wayne Rooney was in the wrong half.
— Jonathan Liew (@jonathanliew) October 25, 2017
Everton continued to turn the screw as the second half progressed, and again asked questions by forcing the west Londoners’ custodian into a duo of fantastic stops.
The first came again from close range, as the Argentine denied defender Phil Jagielka – who had arrowed his header goal bound and demanded nothing but the best from the 36-year-old to maintain Chelsea’s lead.
Just two minutes later Caballero was at it again, this time from the edge of the area as Kevin Mirallas received the ball from Lennon before swivelling and unleashing his effort which called for another smart stop.
However, the Merseysiders’ lacklustre finishing was almost punished again with less than 15 minutes to go, as the Blues’ weekend hero Michy Batshuayi came inches away from doubling his side’s lead, and certainly would have had it not been for the defensive stretch of Jagielka.
The Belgian had broken clear after capitalising on a poor Rooney back pass before rounding the advancing Jordan Pickford. But the 24-year-old’s touch was too heavy to latch onto, and the English veteran was able to turn the ball around the post as his opposition clattered into it.
Hope that shuts the haters up!!!! What a beautifully worked goal Willian you deserve that my guy 👏🏼🙌🏼
— Jess 💙⚽️ (@jess__chelsea) October 25, 2017
Following that it looked as though the tie was set to fizzle out in a similar vein to the first-half, however as the clock entered time added on Willian produced a stroke of genius, which in the end was vital to sending Chelsea through.
The Brazil international’s first thought was to keep a late corner in the Everton half, however after smartly tricking his way past Tom Davies and playing a neat one-two with Alvaro Morata on the edge of the area, the 29-year-old elected to unleash a bending shot which left Pickford in the Toffees goal with no chance as it cannoned in off the far post.
You would imagine at this point that the drooping heads of the travelling Merseysiders would be almost touching grass, however youngster Calvert-Lewin was defiant and eventually found the ball at his feet inside the hosts’ area less than a minute after the restart and restored some respectability to the scoreline with one of the last kicks of the game.
The 2-1 victory for the west Londoners sees them join Manchester United, Bristol City, Bournemouth, Leicester City, Arsenal, Manchester City and West Ham United in the last eight, ahead of the draw for the quarter-finals which takes place at 4pm UK on Thursday.