There were eight minutes left when Reece James collected the ball 25 yards from goal, opened up his body and curled a lovely shot into the Grimsby net. The right-back had marked his debut by scoring Chelsea’s fifth goal and all Frank Lampard could do was give thanks to the club’s flourishing academy.
Chelsea had six academy players on the pitch by the time they had moved into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup at the expense of Grimsby, with Callum Hudson-Odoi marking his new five-year deal by scoring the final goal in this 7-1 romp. Ian Maatsen and Tino Anjorin came on for their debuts and while Lampard is still waiting for his first clean sheet, this was an enjoyable way for him to claim his first home win.
José Mourinho’s criticism of the Chelsea fans who stayed behind to applaud their team off at the end of last Sunday’s defeat by Liverpool does not appear to have gone down well with Lampard, who used his programme notes here to aim a subtle dig at his old boss. Lampard called the reaction the mark of a big club and it was also reflective of a shift in the mood at Stamford Bridge, where there is a more relaxed atmosphere at present, less of a demand for instant success.
Optimism is generated by evidence that Lampard is building for the future and it was heartening to see him use this game as a platform for more of Chelsea’s academy products. There were debuts for Marc Guehi and James in defence, a first start in midfield for Billy Gilmour and plenty of attention on Hudson-Odoi, who was making his comeback from the serious achilles injury he suffered last season.
It was one of Lampard’s more experienced players who set the early tone, though. Four minutes had passed when Ross Barkley collected possession 30 yards from goal, shook off Harry Clifton and fizzed a low drive inside James McKeown’s near post.
The hosts were quick to build on Barkley’s first goal of the season. Three minutes later James, back from an ankle injury, sprinted clear on the right and crossed. A deflection took the ball into the path of Michy Batshuayi, who grabbed his first goal for Chelsea since January 2018 with a sharp finish.
It was threatening to turn into an exercise in damage limitation for Grimsby at that stage. Not for long, though. They were back in the game in the 19th minute, exposing Chelsea’s defensive frailties when Kurt Zouma allowed a long punt to squeeze through to Matt Green, whose joyous volley into the roof of the net sent the noisy travelling contingent wild.
That was a reminder that Chelsea remain a work in progress, though they were rarely in danger of losing their lead before the break. They continued to dominate and the roles were reversed when Green hauled down Zouma as Hudson-Odoi delivered a corner. Barkley stayed away from this one, having missed from the spot against Valencia last week, and Pedro sent McKeown the wrong way.
Chelsea were in complete control and their fourth goal arrived in the 56th minute when James produced a moment of brilliant skill, jabbing a cross into the six-yard box with the outside of his right boot. The ball reached Zouma, who prodded it past McKeown from close range.
The second half had become a chance for the home fans to bask in their team’s supremacy over opponents lying ninth in League Two. They admired Gilmour’s bright touches and clever movement in midfield, while it was impossible not to be impressed with the way Guehi warmed to the task of handling James Hanson, a burly centre-forward who spent much of the contest trying to bully the 19-year-old defender in the air.
James made it 5-1 in the 82nd minute, Batshuayi rammed home his second of the night after good work from Christian Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi sealed a successful return with a seventh.