Kepa Arrizbalaga and Reece James were in their elements as Chelsea beat Aston Villa on penalties to reach the Carabao Cup fourth round.
Both the halves were largely even affairs, although Aston Villa had the better of the chances in the opening period whereas Chelsea conjured up better opportunities post the interval. The hosts came the closest to scoring just ahead of half-time, when Reece James produced a brilliant goalline clearance to deny Anwar El Ghazi.
Chelsea were hot off the gates in the second half and finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute when Timo Werner rose the highest to turn in James’s pinpoint cross from close range. The Blues continued to pose a threat but several players did not seem to have their finishing boots on, which eventually played in Villa’s hands, as in the 64th minute, an inch-perfect cross by Matty Cash was converted by Cameron Archer.
Neither side managed to trouble the scorers thereafter, as the game went to penalties, where Kepa Arrizabalaga would prove to be the difference maker, as he saved Marvelous Nakamba’s spot-kick before James scored the decisive penalties to send Chelsea to the Carabao Cup fourth round. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over both the sets of players.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 9/10
Making a second consecutive start in the continued absence of Edouard Mendy, Kepa Arrizbalaga impressed once again. While most of his saves were regulation stops, he came to the fore during the penalty shootout, guessing the right way to deny Marvelous Nakamba. Powerless against Cameron Archer for the equaliser.
Reece James: 9/10
Back in the starting lineup after being omitted against Tottenham Hotspur on the weekend, James provided a reminder of his brilliance. Deployed in the back three, James was largely comfortable, as illustrated by his awareness to drop down to the goalline to clear Anwar El Ghazi’s shot. Provided the assist for Timo Werner with a perfect cross before calmly slotting his penalty in the shootout.
Reece James' game by numbers vs. Aston Villa:
97% pass accuracy
And the game-winning penalty.💪 pic.twitter.com/AyxOhVKixV
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 22, 2021
Trevoh Chalobah: 7/10
Making his first start since August, Chalobah impressed once again, showing that he can definitely be an option worth considering for a bigger role this season. For the most part, the prodigious centre-back kept a check on Archer, although he could not deny the Aston Villa striker for the equaliser.
Malang Sarr: 6/10
Making his Chelsea debut nearly one year after arriving at Stamford Bridge, Sarr appeared to be over-eager to make an impression, which could have hurt him bad on another day. Still, he had quite a few positive moments as well while his pass completion rate of 94 percent was excellent.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 7/10
Deployed as a right wing-back, Hudson-Odoi impressed for the most part, although his decision making was suspect when in promising positions to set up a teammate. Nevertheless, he completed 93 percent of his attempted passes while also putting in the hard yards off the ball.
N’Golo Kante: 7/10
Kante played just one half against Aston Villa as Thomas Tuchel continues to manage his fitness in a smart manner. Donning the armband for Chelsea, the Frenchman was here, there and everywhere and even looked to set teammates up with defence-splitting passes, although some of his through balls were overhit. Still managed a key pass while being untroubled defensively.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 9/10
Handed his first start of the season, Loftus-Cheek would have wanted to give Tuchel some food for thought ahead of a long season. And that is exactly what the Chelsea academy graduate did, sitting as the deeper of the midfielders while winning 9 duels. Played a game-high three key passes as well while misplacing just eight passes all game. Might just get himself into contention for a midfield berth.
Tuchel on Loftus-Cheek: "We gave him some minutes vs Zenit. It was not a gift and I trust him and see how he works. He adapts and accepts his situation. What he makes out of it is good on a daily basis. There's a good chance we will see him on the pitch tomorrow." #CFC
— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) September 21, 2021
Ben Chilwell: 5/10
Chilwell made a rare appearance at this early stage of the season and the difference in his level to that of Marcos Alonso’s was evident. The English international just could not make any sort of impact with his deliveries while also being put under the cosh at times defensively. Has to step up if he is to reclaim his place in the side.
Hakim Ziyech: 5/10
Things are just not getting any easier for Ziyech, who struggled to make an impact against Aston Villa. While the Moroccan international ought to have had an assist for a chance that he set up for Werner, that was as good as it got for him on the night, with his passing being sub-par to say the least – possession lost 17 times. Another one who need to raise his level.
Timo Werner: 7/10
Given a chance to impress, Werner went a long way in making his mark, having did well to rise and finish the chance created by James. However, on his best day, the German international would have had a brace at the very least. Played a couple of passes and linked up well in the final third.
Saul Niguez: 5/10
Much improved from a forgettable debut – also against Aston Villa. However, Saul was once again well off his best, showing that it might take him some time before he can make an impact for Chelsea. Wasteful on the ball, the Spaniard completed just 65 percent of his attempted passes, although he did improve after dropping into midfield.
Mason Mount: 7/10
On for Kante, Mount was purposeful in his display and even came close to scoring twice, only to be denied by Jed Steer. Played a couple of key passes and in the shootout, he made no error in finding the back of the net.
Captain Mason Mount, for the 3rd time… 🌟💙 pic.twitter.com/KUzv1blhUz
— LDN (@LDNFootbalI) September 22, 2021
Ross Barkley: 7/10
On for Ziyech, Barkley made a rare appearance for Chelsea, but just could not get into the game. Did convert his spot-kick in the shootout.
Romelu Lukaku: 7/10
Introduced in place of Saul, Lukaku saw very little of the ball in the final quarter of an hour. Scored his penalty with typical composure.
Jed Steer: 6/10
A frustrating evening for Steer, who did everything he could have to deny Chelsea a win. Some of his six saves were impressive, even though his handling was not the best. Could not save a single penalty during the shootout.
Matty Cash: 7/10
In a week wherein he has been in the news over seeking a change of nationality to break through in international football, Cash once again delivered the goods on the pitch. Made three clearances while posing a threat on his forays down the right flank. One such move saw him set Archer up for the equaliser.
Axel Tuanzebe: 7/10
Once again stationed at the heart of the Aston Villa defence, Tuanzebe was rock solid in his display, making three clearances, two interceptions and two tackles in addition to a couple of blocks as well. Won four duels while completing all but four of his attempted passes. Not the one to be blamed for the defeat.
Kortney Hause: 7/10
Back in the starting lineup making a rare appearance, Hause played like he was proving a point to Dean Smith. The 26-year-old made a staggering nine clearances while also making a couple of blocks. Won six duels while losing possession only six times. Solid work.
Ashley Young: 5/10
Starting at left-back in the absence of Matt Targett, Young was also donning the armband for Aston Villa. However, this was a game to forget for the veteran Englishman, who had his fair share of worries against Hudson-Odoi, often losing out on a foot race. Did play a key pass, though.
Morgan Sanson: 7/10
A solid customer in the middle of the park for Aston Villa, Sanson was a major reason why the hosts were the stronger of the two sides in the first half, with the Frenchman winning each of his duels. However, he was forced off the pitch before half-time with an injury, which has to be frustrating for him.
Morgan Sanson's 42 minutes before suffering another injury…
100% tackle success
1 key pass
7.12 rating (highest on the pitch in the first half)
Gutted for him
— Martin Laurence (@martinlaurence7) September 22, 2021
Marvelous Nakamba: 5/10
A difficult outing for Nakamba, who struggled to contain Kante and Mount at different junctures of the game. The Zimbabwean midfielder was dribbled past an astonishing seven times while he lost more duels than he won. Did not pass the ball well either before missing his spot-kick during the shootout.
Bertrand Traore: 7/10
Oddly, Traore did not get too many chances to express himself. However, when he did see the ball, the former Chelsea forward looked the most dangerous of the Aston Villa attackers. Put in the hard yards defensively as well, winning six duels. Taken off midway through the second half.
Emiliano Buendia: 5/10
A game to forget for Buendia, who was recalled by Smith on the night. The Argentine just could not find the openings behind the Chelsea defence, even though it was a largely makeshift back three. Has to do better than this.
Anwar El Ghazi: 6/10
Deployed on the left wing, El Ghazi had the best chance of the game to break the deadlock before half-time, only to be denied by the brilliant James. His passing, though, was shoddy, as he only completed 61 percent of his attempted pass. Scored his penalty calmly.
Cameron Archer: 7/10
Handed yet another opportunity in the Carabao Cup, Archer largely impressed, with his header to score from Cash’s cross being quite impressive to say the least. However, the youngster had other chances to score as well and on another day, he could have inspired a big win over Chelsea.
Cameron Archer in the EFL Cup so far this season:
⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ vs Barrow
⚽️ vs Chelsea
One for the future. 👏 pic.twitter.com/4JNaf8W1N2
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 22, 2021
Carney Chukwuemeka: 6/10
Introduced in place of Sanson, Chukwuemeka provided a solid base in midfield, although he could not cope up with the Chelsea onslaught in their best moments. Did win four duels, though.
Jaden Philogene-Bidace: 6/10
On for Traore, Philogene-Bidace did not see a lot of the ball in the final quarter of the game, with Chelsea largely dominating the proceedings.
Ezri Konsa: 7/10
On for Cash, Konsa did not have a lot of defending to do late on. Converted his spot-kick in quite an emphatic manner.