Chelsea were knocked out at the first attempt in the Carabao Cup after falling to a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night.
Last year's finalists Chelsea were knocked out in the third round of this edition of the League Cup, after swift second half strikes from Riyad Mahrez and Julian Alvarez were enough to condemn the Blues to a third defeat in four matches.
Manchester City started the game on top, as they looked to extend their chances of winning a fifth Carabao Cup in six years. Chelsea struggled to get out of their half as Man City and particularly Jack Grealish caused mayhem around the box for Graham Potter's men.
Despite City’s early dominance, Chelsea looked dangerous on the counter, and they should have taken the lead through Christian Pulisic, only for the American to skew his effort with the goal gaping, following some good work from Hakim Ziyech and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on the right.
Pulisic looked a threat for Chelsea throughout the first half, and had another shot well saved by Stefan Ortega, following another surging run through the City half.
City will feel that despite Chelsea’s attempts they should have been leading at the break. The hosts created sustained periods of play where they stopped Chelsea from playing out the back which led to a plethora of goal scoring opportunities. Jack Grealish had a few stinging efforts on goal, whilst Julian Alvarez should have done better than poking wide after he was played in by Ilkay Gundogan.
However, at the end of a fairly entertaining half it was young Lewis Hall who spurned a golden chance to give Chelsea the lead. Hall was slipped in by Pulisic and showed great composure to glide past Rico Lewis, yet he could not replicate this with his finish, tamely striking at Ortega at close range.
The second half continued in a similar vein to the first with City in the ascendancy.
Jack Grealish had two more efforts well saved by Edouard Mendy before City finally made a breakthrough through Riyad Mahrez. A free-kick on the edge of the box was well struck by Mahrez, leaving Mendy with no chance, although he will be disappointed with the efforts of his wall, specifically Kalidou Koulibaly who didn't jump as the ball narrowly sailed over his head and into the back of the net.
Chelsea reacted well to the goal and Hakim Ziyech spurned a couple of half chances, however this attacking buoyancy soon cost the Blues as they conceded again five minutes later.
Manchester City countered as Chelsea looked to equalise, with Julian Alvarez switching the play to Mahrez who had a good effort saved by Mendy, who could only parry the ball with Alvarez more alert than Koulibaly to stab home into an empty net.
Chelsea rallied well and created more openings to get back into the match, yet the ball would not land in the back of the net for Graham Potter’s men, who exit the Carabao Cup at the first hurdle.
Here is what Absolute Chelsea learned from the defeat against Man City.
1) Out at the first hurdle
After reaching the final of the competition last year, Chelsea have fallen at the first attempt this season. Admittedly drawing Manchester City away was probably the worst possible outcome, yet Graham Potter will still be disappointed to fall out of the tournament so quickly. Thomas Tuchel was a cup specialist at Chelsea, and it may be difficult for fans to accept such an early exit, yet less games will hopefully allow Graham Potter more time to work with his struggling side. Three losses in four means Chelsea need to get a result against Newcastle heading into the World Cup break, although it will be extremely difficult.
2) Promising display from Lewis Hall
Making only his second start for Chelsea, Lewis Hall could have hoped for an easier place to visit than Manchester City. However the opposition didn’t seem to faze Hall too much who was arguably Chelsea’s best player on the night. Confident on the ball, he glided past his counterpart Rico Lewis countless times and looked ready made for this level. Hall should have had two goals yet poor finishing let him down, which arguably cost his side the game against a team you cannot afford to be wasteful. Regardless of his missed chances, Lewis Hall will have done his first team chances no harm with his display at the Etihad.
3) Defensive lapses cost Chelsea
Manchester City’s domination of the ball always meant Chelsea’s defenders were likely to face a tough evening and a marauding Jack Grealish and co set the tempo right from the off. Chelsea struggled to play the ball out from the back, largely due to City’s hustle in the press yet there were still a few poor passes. Koulibaly and Chalobah were both booked for rash challenges, with Koulibaly in particular putting in a poor display. Koulibaly failed to jump for Mahrez’s free-kick strike, when a slight boost would have stopped the ball in its tracks, and was again asleep to Julian Alvarez who snuck in behind him to double the lead. Thiago Silva will likely be ushered back into the side at the weekend.
4) Similar attacking profligacy
Unlike the Arsenal game last weekend, no one can claim Chelsea lacked ideas and creativity in the final third. However despite this, a rather familiar pattern of wastefulness in the box began to show itself. Pulisic missed a gilt-edged chance to give Chelsea an early lead, whilst Lewis Hall should have bagged himself a brace yet lacked the necessary composure. Whilst Hall and Pulisic can both legitimately claim ring-rust, it is difficult to justify missing chances of that calibre against a side as strong as Man City. Graham Potter will hope his side can find their shooting boots before this weekend's trip to Newcastle.
5) Christian Pulisic lively
Making a rare start, Pulisic would have hoped to catch his manager's eye with the American achieving this in both positive and negative ways. A poor miss early in the game should have given his team the lead, skewing wide from close range in what has become an all too common showing of profligacy in the box. Yet after this miss, Pulisic rallied and did well to work an effort at Ortega soon after. Pulisic was dangerous with the ball at his feet, and it always felt he could spark an opportunity for his side. He was also unlucky not to provide an assist for Lewis Hall’s first effort. With other attackers flailing, Pulisic may have done enough to earn himself a start against Newcastle.