Chelsea 2, Everton 1
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte vowed to keep faith with his youngsters after his much-changed side neutralised Everton’s new-manager bounce to reach the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup.
Defender Antonio Rudiger’s first-half header and a stoppage-time strike from winger Willian ensured the Blues’ place in Thursday’s draw irrespective of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s last-gasp reply.
But Conte reserved particular praise for 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu, a composed midfield presence on his first start, full-back Kenedy and attacker Charly Musonda.
“I’m very happy because I saw a lot of positive things, above all the young players’ performance,” said Conte. “Charly Musonda, Kenedy and Ampadu - don’t forget he is only 17 - they played a good game. It’s very important to trust in these players because they deserve this chance, and tonight I am very happy because I had a good answer.
“We want to fight for this competition. We know it will be very difficult because there are all the best teams but we want to try to give the opportunity to our young players to have these types of games. If you want to develop young players then you have to give them the chance to play tough games, not only soft games.”
Everton caretaker manager David Unsworth, in temporary charge following Ronald Koeman’s sacking on Monday, hailed a “great performance” despite the Toffees slipping to an eighth defeat in 12 games.
“I’m pleased but not too pleased because we lost the game,” he said. “We’ll hopefully be as committed as that in every game that I’m in charge.”
Unsworth’s bold selection, which saw five changes and a debut for 19-year-old midfielder Beni Baningime, failed to lift Everton in the first half and they deservedly fell behind in the 26th minute when Rudiger guider a header from Charly Musonda’s deep centre back across goal and just under the crossbar.
They returned after the break with greater aggression, a high press and a determination to draw level, and only four Willy Caballero saves in just over 10 minutes - from Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon, Phil Jagielka and Kevin Mirallas - kept the hosts in front.
Everton needed Jagielka to clear off the line before they went closest to equalising, substitute Ademola Lookman cutting in from the right and bending a 20-yard shot that clipped the top of the bar.
But in stoppage time Willian applied the killer blow, curling a low shot in off the far post from a tight angle after a one-two with Cesc Fabregas, which ensured that the calamitous late defending from Rudiger that allowed Calvert-Levin to bundle home proved immaterial.