A maiden Chelsea hat-trick for Michy Batshuayi, plus goals from Kenedy and Charly Musonda – his first for the club – secured our comfortable progression to the Carabao Cup fourth round as Nottingham Forest were well beaten at the Bridge.
It was a positive night for Antonio Conte and his side, with Eden Hazard completing his first full game of the season and three players – Willy Caballero and youngsters Ethan Ampadu and Dujon Sterling – making their Chelsea debuts.
Kenedy, impressive throughout, opened the scoring early on with a well-taken volley, before goals from Batshuayi and Musonda all but ended the game as a contest before the break.
The Belgian striker then netted twice in the second half, the first of which coming after a sublime piece of skill by Hazard, before the visitors scored a late consolation.
Caballero was given the nod in goal for the first time since joining the club and 20-year-old Belgian attacker Musonda, a late sub in our opening game against Burnley, was also named in the starting line-up for the first time. Hazard, who had come off the bench in our previous three matches, started for the first time this season while youngsters Sterling and Ampadu were named on a bench which also included Victor Moses, Willian and Alvaro Morata.
It was the visitors who were first to threaten when Daniel Fox’s cross from the left-hand side was only partially cleared. The ball fell invitingly for Andreas Bouchalakis who fired towards goal but it was a relatively comfortable save for Caballero.
It took just seven minutes for Musonda’s impact to be felt as the Belgian burst away from a couple of challenges and exchanged passes with Tiemoue Bakayoko, only for Jack Hobbs to get the slightest touch on the ball as he prepared to get his shot away.
Kenedy then collected a Musonda pass and teed up Batshuayi who dragged his effort just wide, but moments later the Brazilian would have a far more decisive impact as he opened the scoring at the end of a lovely Chelsea move.
It started in our own half as the ball was worked forward to Musonda, who beat his man with a smart trick before switching the play inside to Bakayoko. He then moved it on to the advancing Antonio Rudiger, who had started on the right-hand side of the defensive trio, and as the German delivered an inch-perfect cross to the far post, Kenedy arrived to cushion a brilliant volley past Forest goalkeeper Stephen Henderson.
Six minutes later, and with our next attack of note, the lead was extended with a goal which owed much to the determination of Cesc Fabregas who did brilliantly to win the ball back on the edge of the Forest box. Hazard was first on to it and picked out the run of Batshuayi, who slotted the ball through the legs of Henderson to make it 2-0.
After the Blues passed up a decent opportunity to score a third, when Batshuayi and Musonda were unable to apply a connection to a superb Kenedy cross, Forest came close to reducing the deficit. Mark Warburton’s side were awarded a free-kick just outside the penalty area following a trip by Fabregas on Tyler Walker, son of former England international and Forest legend, Des. Kieran Dowell curled his strike over the wall and, with Caballero beaten, it crashed against the bar.
In his pre-match press conference Conte had spoken about the importance of those players coming into the team making the most of their opportunity, and both Kenedy and Musonda had impressed during the first half.
Five minutes before the break the young Belgian, a constant threat, thrilled the home fans by making it 3-0 with his first goal for the club. As is so often the case, the assist was provided byFabregas, who picked his team-mate out with an incisive pass, and Musonda did the rest, driving his low strike into the bottom corner and giving Henderson no chance.
The same two players almost combined to fashion a fourth goal on the stroke of half-time but as Musonda raced in behind the Forest backline to latch on to a magnificent lofted pass fromFabregas, he poked the ball beyond Henderson but just past the post.
The second half began in a similar manner to the way the previous one had ended – with the Blues on the front foot. Just a couple of minutes after the restart Hazard curled a wonderful strike against the inside of the post, and Rudiger was next to go close, fizzing a long-range effort just over the bar.
It felt as though a fourth goal was imminent, and so it proved as Batshuayi doubled his tally, but while it was the striker who provided the finish, both Fabregas and Hazard deserved plenty of credit for their involvement.
The Spaniard launched a ball over the top of the Forest defence which Hazard raced on to but with only Henderson to beat the Belgian sold the keeper a dummy and laid it on a plate for Batshuayi, who clinically dispatched his strike.
With the game all but won, and with three big matches on the horizon, Conte handed 17-year-old midfielder Ampadu, a summer arrival from Exeter City, his Chelsea debut as the youngster came on to replace Fabregas.
Forest’s best chance of the game up until that point arrived with 21 minutes left to play when Bouchalakis released Ben Brereton but as the substitute, under pressure from Rudiger, advanced towards goal he crashed his strike into the side netting.
Following the introduction of Ampadu, Conte then made his two final substitutions in quick succession with Jake Clarke-Salter replacing Andreas Christensen, and 17-year-old Dujon Sterling making his Blues debut, coming on for Davide Zappacosta at right wing-back.
Zac Clough whipped a free-kick just over the bar for Forest, with a large chunk of the away following packed in behind the goal under the impression his strike had beaten Caballero, and Bouchalakis then blasted an effort from distance well over the bar.
There was still time for the Blues to add to our tally, however, as Batshuayi completed his first Chelsea hat-trick in bizarre fashion. Kenedy produced a wonderful piece of skill to control a Hazard pass on the volley, and as his fierce strike came back off the bar it bounced off Batshuayiand rolled into the net.
The visiting Forest fans were given something to cheer with the last kick of the game as Tendayi Darikwa scored a consolation, but it’s the Blues who go through.
Attention now turns towards two big away games, Stoke in the Premier League on Saturday and a Champions League tie at Atletico Madrid next Wednesday.