Chelsea 4, Peterborough United 1
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte insists he still hopes to add to his squad this month despite fringe players forcing their way back into his thinking in an FA Cup romp against Peterborough on Sunday.
Unsettled striker Michy Batshuayi scored his first goal since August, midfielders Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Nathaniel Cahlobah impressed and defender Kurt Zouma returned after 11 months out injured.
Wide forward Willian also netted to add to Pedro’s classy brace as Chelsea made light of Conte’s nine changes and weathered the second-half sending-off of centre-back John Terry.
The former Italy coach confirmed the recalling of Nathan Ake from the Dutch youngster’s loan at Bournemouth but indicated his sudden surfeit of options would not stop him seeking January transfers.
“We changed nine players because I had the opportunity to see some players who haven’t played a lot. I saw a lot of positive things,” said Conte.
“In this window it’s very difficult to find great players but we are seeing if we are able to find the opportunity to improve this team. If we find the opportunity to improve the squad, we will do it, but I’m very happy to work with this group of players.”
Batshuayi seizes chance to impress Conte
Conte reserved special praise for £33m summer signing Batshuayi, whose four-month goal drought – and rumours of Conte’s interest in Swansea’s Fernando Llorente – have led to murmurings about his future.
“Michy played a good game. He stayed with our philosophy and idea of football. He showed me great commitment and work-rate and it’s always important for a forward’s confidence to score,” he added.
“He has to continue to work in this way. He’s young, he’s improving and he showed that. It’s important for him to give me the opportunity to have another solution.”
Conte said Chelsea might appeal Terry’s red card for clumsily stopping Peterborough’s Lee Angol charge towards goal, the veteran defender’s second dismissal in nine games, calling it “not right”.
Chelsea respond to midweek defeat
It was an overwhelmingly positive day for the Premier League leaders, however, following the ending of their 13-match winning streak in the top flight by Tottenham on Wednesday.
Pedro fired the Blues ahead after 18 minutes, whipping a shot into the top right corner after Posh goalkeeper Luke McGee had parried Chalobah’s venomous 20-yard shot.
The Spain winger hit the bar from close range before Batshuayi added the second just before half-time, finishing low to McGee’s right after Loftus-Cheek had cushioned Branislav Ivanovic’s cross.
Willian put the result beyond doubt seven minutes into the second half when he cut in from the left to sweep into the far corner, although Terry’s red card gave the visitors slender hope.
League One Peterborough pulled a goal back with 20 minutes left when Tom Nichols converted Chris Forrester’s low cross, but Pedro doused the comeback moments later when he collected Batshuayi’s lay-off and placed an 18-yard shot beyond McGee.