Proving once again that league form is no indicator of cup performance, Bournemouth gave Chelsea all they could handle at Stamford Bridge in a Carabao Cup quarter-final on Wednesday night.
Thanks to Artur Boruc, Chelsea were denied until second-half substitute Eden Hazard bounced one in after Pedro penetrated in the 84th minute.
Zola says Bournemouth gave us a very tough game after we had started the match well. He adds that the changes we were able to make, with Hazard and Pedro coming on, made the difference. #CHEBOU— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 19, 2018
Ruben Loftus-Cheek started as the right side forward. Until he was moved back into the midfield late, he was having a man of the match performance, including a couple of dangerous shots.
It’s the second consecutive match that Maurizio Sarri has elected to play RLC as a forward and, just as it did under Antonio Conte, the role seems to suit him.
Gianfranco Zola, substituting for Maurizio Sarri, agreed.
“I was impressed with him. He has done well as a wide player, but he showed a lot of sacrifice as a midfielder. He was getting tired but was disciplined. He is gone far away from the beginning of the season. He is a good boy and works very hard.”
Eden Hazard was taken off early against Brighton after what he called an ankle twist. Despite being seen limping and with an ice pack strapped on, Sarri deemed him fit enough to be on the bench.
With Chelsea struggling to find a goal, he came on in the 61st minute. While it took him a few minutes to find his groove, he was in the right place to get a backheel from fellow substitute Pedro and score.
After a two-month drought, it was Hazard’s second goal in two matches.
Afterwards, even Zola found himself talking about Eden’s unsigned contract.
“He is certainly one of the players that has given this club a lot of satisfaction. Hopefully he will stay with us a get even bigger. I hope he achieves great things for us in the future.”
It was Hazard’s 99th goal for Chelsea and after the match he didn’t seem to be feeling any pressure about getting his century.
Much of Zola’s post-match presser focused on Chelsea’s upcoming semi-final draw against Tottenham.
Zola on drawing Spurs: “It could have been better but it’s fine. We’re happy because some time ago they gave us a football lesson & we’re looking forward to challenging them again. I’m sure it’ll be a different game” #cfc #thfc— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) December 19, 2018
He expressed confidence that the support would do the right thing about the recent song controversies.
And he thinks the players will see the two-leg semi, with the second leg at Stamford Bridge, as a chance for redemption after being thumped by Spurs in the league.
“There are a lot of proud players and they want to play this game and show that we were not the ones that played that game. Too many players under played and were hurt. We are pleased that we will play them and we can’t wait.”
Chelsea will be grateful to have another home game coming up next, a classic 3pm Saturday kickoff, against Leicester City.
After taking Sarri’s post-Tottenham criticism to heart and starting strong in their last two matches, they’ll be looking to make it three in a row against the 12th-place Foxes.