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Chelsea ease past Walsall to begin Capital One Cup defence

Nigel Roddis/Getty Images

Walsall away in the Capital One Cup isn't the optimal draw for the defence of our second-newest trophy, but it's hardly the sort of trip that would give Jose Mourinho any nightmares. There's no disrespect intended when I suggest that even a second-string Chelsea side should comfortably beat a League One outfit, and unlike the debacle against Bradford City last year, this time the Blues held up their end of the bargain with a 4-1 win.

The intent was clear from kickoff. Chelsea immediately pinned the hosts back into their own half, looking a serious threat to score whenever they felt like it. The first chance fell to Radamel Falcao, whose heavy touch let him down after John Obi Mikel put the striker through on goal with a sublime pass. Then Ramires managed to scuff a shot from the penalty spot after  enedy's cross popped off a defender and set up what should have been an easy goal. Loic Rémy joined the club after smartly setting himself up for a strike just inside the area and smashing it right into the nearest defender. And this was all inside the first 10 minutes!

A goal was coming. By this point it was only a matter of when, and that question was answered thanks to a Walsall error. Goalkeeper Neil Etheridge played a hospital ball to the unfortunate Paul Downing, leaving him totally exposed to a challenge from Kenedy. The Brazilian won the ball back, marched into the area, and stood up a cross at the back post for Ramires. A header was duly thumped home.

To nobody's surprise, Chelsea's intensity dropped after scoring, allowing Walsall to come out of their shells a little and attack. But the chances were still all at the other end of the pitch. Falcao blew another one-on-one with a poor touch, but did somewhat better with his next go, hitting the post from a tight angle before Rémy had the follow-up deflected over the bar.

It was Rémy who got the second, doubling the advantage four minutes before the break after deft play from Ramires opened up a gap on the Walsall left. Rémy had plenty to do even after being played in, but his cool, dinked finish left Etherington stranded and made it 2-0 Chelsea.

Getting into the half with that cushion would have been super, but the hosts struck back during stoppage time to keep the match at least vaguely competitive. Branislav Ivanovic made a bizarre if not entirely uncharacteristic error at right back and then attempted to make up for it by fouling his man 25 yards from goal. Former Blue Milan Lalkovic stepped up to take the free kick, and his swerving, vicious effort completely wrong-footed Asmir Begovic. Despite his error, Begovic managed to make the initial stop, but could only parry it to James O'Connor, who poked in the rebound to break a nice two-match clean sheet streak.

Despite the goal, there was no panic, and it didn't take long for Chelsea to restore their two-goal advantage. The goal, will, one hopes, be remembered for much longer than the match itself. Not only was it beautifully worked -- nice movement by Jon Obi Mikel, a rapier-like one-touch through ball from Ruben Loftus-Cheek and then an incisive finish -- it was also important in its own right as Kenedy became the youngest Chelsea goalscorer in almost a decade. It certainly wasn't a bad way to mark his full debut.

After 3-1 the game descended into farce, with the comedy first provided by a malfunctioning sprinkler, which seemed determined to dampen Begovic's spirits, then by Falcao, whose stand-up routine included falling over while trying to take a free kick and blazing over the bar for no apparent reason. There was also some football, which mostly involved Walsall attempting to attack but getting blocked off before they posed any real threat.

Jose Mourinho opted to lock things down 20 minutes from time, bringing on Pedro for Kenedy and Nemanja Matic for Loftus-Cheek, and the first sub grabbed the final goal when he skipped past his man and fired a low, 25-yard drive beyond Etherington's outstretched hand. After Pedro's strike, we had enough time for a first appearance from Papy Djilobodji, but not a whole lot else. Job done. Unless you're a sprinkler.

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