The impressive crowd of just
under 36,000 that turned up for tonight�s first outing
in this season�s Carling Cup certainly can�t say it didn�t
receive value for money from this one!
Four Chelsea goals and a display that was frayed enough
around the edges to allow the opposition hope until close
to the end made for a buoyant evening of cup football
- spiced up towards the end by the sideshow that was Eidur
Gudjohnsen�s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to record
his first career hat-trick
That would have put to an end a Notts County challenge
that Chelsea never really looked likely to lose, but we
did always look capable of conceding. We were often our
own most dangerous opponents.
A multitude of free-kicks were conceded in dangerous locations
as well as a fair smattering of corners. Darren Caskey
may not be (how shall we put this?) quite the fighting
weight he enjoyed when a Tottenham hopeful - but he does
still deliver a testing dead ball and he was a threat
With Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen feeding off the craft
of Damien Duff however, Chelsea were always in possession
of sufficient firepower to win the day.
Duff, starting on the left of a midfield four that also
included Veron, Geremi and Gronkjaer, was at his twisting
and turning best � particularly early on.
With only a few minutes on the clock he almost set-up
both Hasselbaink and Gudjohnsen and then a spell of sustained
pressure finished with him crossing to Hasselbaink�s diving
head - keeper Mildenhall saving well.
Caskey almost engineered an opening goal for Notts County,
first from a free-kick just wide and then when Tony Barras
headed his corner against the legs of Glen Johnson on
the line. And the young Chelsea full-back was quickly
called on again to save the day.
Some indifferent Melchiot defending allowed Heffernan
to run at Marco Ambrosio and although he got an intercepting
hand in, the ball made its way back to Heffernan via Platt
and the shot towards a keeperless net was kicked away
by Johnson. The tone for the game had been set.
Time for Chelsea to roll out the big gun! With 14 minutes
gone, Hasselbaink picked up the ball some 25 yards out,
picked out the top corner with his sights and executed
the delivery as only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink can.
Gronkjaer then cut in and blasted over before effortlessly
racing round the outside of full-back Richardson and crossing
for Gudjohnsen to volley just inches wide with considerable
Home debutant Ambrosio in goal pulled off a confidence-boosting
save at the far post when Platt headed Caskey�s corner
on target but he could do little about County�s equaliser
as the half hour approached. It was another Caskey ball
in, this time flicked on by Platt and Barras smacked it
in to sending the 3,000 travelling fans leaping from their
Not for the only time in the game however, Chelsea proved
capable of deflating County�s dreams as soon as hope had
sprung. With ten minutes to go before the break, Johnson
took possession after a quick throw, advanced and then
floated the ball into the near post area where Gudjohnsen
stooped to bundle it in.
Just before the break, Veron, who spent a lot of the game
drifting deep with only limited effect, lined up a free-kick
and took the sensible option of rolling it for a Huth
bunker-buster which went wide as Barras blocked, almost
losing his head in the process.
Hasselbaink was withdrawn at half-time, Mario Stanic making
his first appearance of the season behind sole striker
Gudjohnsen who was soon in action again � his shot well
saved after more good work by Duff.
Then just after the hour came a double penalty incident
that more or less decided the game. Babayaro was ruled
not to have brought down Baldry in the area despite vociferous
appeals and within a blink, Gronkjaer was well away and
haring towards the County goal.
As he attempted to hurdle keeper Mildenhall, he went flying.
The ref pointed to the spot and followed it up with a
yellow card when having seen it as a foul, it could well
have been red.
Gudjohnsen stepped forward and drove the ball in low for
his 50th Chelsea goal. Gronkjaer failed to recover from
the challenge and was eventually replaced by Joe Cole
and he almost played in Gudjohnsen straight away.
With ten minutes remaining, the Icelander resisted the
temptation to focus totally on that elusive hat-trick
when he set up Duff. His first shot was blocked but he
failed to do a �Mutu� when the second effort was blocked
Two minutes later, Eidur did see the whites of the woodwork
ahead of him after beating the offside but he hit it as
well, smashing against the crossbar with a rasping angled
drive. His frustration was compounded in the final minute
of normal time when Mildenhall pulled off another good
Before that though we had seen another two goals. A lofted
ball into the area saw Ambrosio go up with substitute
Stallard and the Chelsea keeper lost out, appealing for
a foul as the County man stabbed home.
We were then prevented from suffering a nervous ending
by the endeavours of the two subs. Stanic burst through
and saw his shot from 15 yards stopped by yet another
good save from the impressive Mildenhall but it came back
to Cole who calmly passed it into the corner for his Chelsea
Caskey curled just over with the last kick of the game
but a two-goal margin was a fair reflection of game. The
healthy crowd present was a happy reflection of the current
appetite for Chelsea football.