BY PAUL LAGAN
It was a night of debuts and goals as Frank Lampard gave senior starts to four youngsters as the Blues battered Grimsby 7-1 in the Carabao Cup at Stamford Bridge to record their first win at home this season.
Billy Gilmour had a pre-season outing, so doesn’t count, but Marc Guehi, Reece James and substitutes Tino Anjorin and Ian Maatsen will remember the cup with affection.
James in particular will be happy as he set up a couple of goals before slotting home a smart, curler nine minutes from time.
It remains to be seen how many forge a career in the first team, but all gave a good account of themselves. Guehi had a titanic battle with Grimsby beefy striker James Hanson.
Callum Hudson-Odoi made his first start of the season following a long injury and acquitted himself well without uprooting any trees. It’s all about getting more senior minutes for the wide-man.
Grimsby hardly had a touch of the ball in the first four minutes – by then Chelsea were 1-0 up.
Ross Barkely decided he had had enough of the square passing, going nowhere football and just put on the booster, raced into the penalty area and plonked a fierce right footer between near post and James McKeown’s late, but desperate dive.
Michy Batshuayi opened his scoring account two minutes later. Reece James set him up and the Belgium hitman swivelled 180 degrees and sliced home a low, left-footer into the back of the net from close range.
James Hanson had the first effort on the Chelsea goal on 18 minutes, but it was a speculative header that went very wide of Willy Caballero’s goal.
That should have given Chelsea’s defence something to think about. Instead, the vulnerability of the Blues’ back four was once again in evidence. A simple long ball bounced unchallenged just outside the Chelsea area and in-running Matt Green produced a sizzler of a half-volley that zipped over Caballero’s header and smashed into the back of his net.
The side, ninth in League Two, while hardly deserving to be still in the game, certainly took their chance to have their moment to shine.
Chelsea continued to press forward and a lovely dinked free-kick by Callum Hudson-Odoi on 29 minutes, was met by a glancing header by Batshuayi. His effort was inches wide of McKeown’s right post.
Four minutes from the half-time whistle, referee Keith Stroud judged that Green had fouled Kurt Zouma – in fact it was more a rugby tackle. Up stepped skipper Pedro who slotted home with ease, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
But it was goal number four 10 minutes after the restart. Assisted by James, who clipped a deft right-footer into the penalty area following a short free-kick, Zouma toe-poked the ball ahead of challenging Harry Davis from close range past the Grimsby goalie.
Lampard offered the debuts of Tino Anjorin and Ian Maatsen on 68 minutes. Pedro and Marcos Alonso made way.
Batshuayi and Hudson-Odoi has chances to increase the lead. A mixture of offside and excellent saves from McKeown thwarted the pair.
But James showed he can score as well as defend when he curled home a right-footer from just outside the Grimsby area with nine minutes left.
Batshuayi smashed home number six three minutes later and Hudson-Odoi added a similar effort seconds from time to complete the rout.
Next up for Chelsea is a home Premier League match against Brighton on Saturday
Teams: Chelsea, Caballero, James, Guehi, Zouma, Alonso, Barkley, Gilmour, Pulisic, Pedro, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi
Subs: Cumming, Jorginho, Abraham, Mount, Tomori, Maatsen, Anjorin
Grimsby: McKeown, Hendrix, Davis, Gibson, green, Hessenthaler, Hanson, Whitehouse, Clifton, Hewitt, Pollock
Subs: Cook, Robson, Rose, Vernam, Wright, Igbo, Russel