Sunday 11 December 2016

Eye-opener for Conte as minnows refuse to go quietly

Chelsea 3 Bristol Rovers 2

Sam Wallace

Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30

Nemanja Matic is tackled by Stuart Sinclair (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )
Nemanja Matic is tackled by Stuart Sinclair (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images )

There are not many sides in the world who score one goal against teams managed by Antonio Conte, so to go to Stamford Bridge and score twice is no mean achievement for a League One side.

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Bristol Rovers, who came up from League Two in third place last season gave Chelsea's new Italian manager perhaps his most profound lesson yet in the ways of English football: a club 58 places and two divisions below his own and yet they fought for the whole 90 minutes.

Their second goal, from Ellis Harrison from the penalty spot, meant that it was a nervous second half for Chelsea, and Conte eventually brought on Eden Hazard, John Terry and Oscar from a very strong bench.

Michy Batshuayi, the £31m man from Marseille scored twice for Chelsea, and there was another from Victor Moses but twice trailing by a two-goal margin, Rovers never gave up.

In recent months, Conte's Italy shut out Spain, Belgium and Sweden; and his Chelsea side have only conceded one against West Ham and Watford this season. But Rovers deserved their two goals.

Commitments

Victory gives Chelsea a place in the third round of the EFL Cup, and with no European commitments this is a competition they will seek to win.

Certainly they will have to be better than they were against Rovers when their early domination gave way and there were times when the midfield especially looked weak.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is closed down by Jermaine Easter (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)
Ruben Loftus-Cheek is closed down by Jermaine Easter (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

There were six changes from the Chelsea team that beat Watford on Saturday.

There was a first start for Batshuayi. Playing just behind him, given his first chance of the season, was Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

The ropessure was relentless early on, and the hosts went ahead on 29 minutes when Loftus-Cheek played in Nemanja Matic , who crossed for Batshuayi to belt on in a volley. The second followed soon after when Cesar Azpilicueta set up Moses for his first Chelsea goal since May 2013.

However, the visitors pulled one back when centre-back Peter Hartley headed in a free-kick.

Batshuayi scored his second from Loftus-Cheek's pass four minutes before half-time.

Rovers manager Clarke brought on two forwards, and was rewarded when Stuart Sinclair drove into the Chelsea area and was brought down by Pedro for a penalty, converted by Ellis Harrison.

Soon after Harrison hit the bar with a volley. Chelsea were rattled, but they were too strong in the end. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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