It was a case of mission accomplished for Chelsea in the Capital One Cup against Bolton, with assistant first-team coach Steve Holland insisting the performance had provided boss Jose Mourinho with some selection posers.
The Premier League leaders made hard work of a 2-1 win over a Championship side with one win in eight league matches this term, prevailing thanks to Oscar’s second-half strike.
It should have been so much more comfortable for a Chelsea side showing nine changes from the one which began the draw at Manchester City, but Andre Schurrle, in particular, was profligate in front of goal.
There was also the concern of conceding from a free-kick, but Holland was still impressed as the Blues set up a fourth-round tie with League Two Shrewsbury.
“Andre’s performance reflected the mentality of the team,” said Holland, after undertaking media duties instead of boss Mourinho.
“When you think not much more than two months ago he was playing in a World Cup final, tonight he’s playing in the third round of the Capital One Cup and showed a really committed performance, full of ambition and drive all night, was dangerous throughout the game, looked our most likely source.”
Kurt Zouma’s debut goal was cancelled out six minutes later by nine-club journeyman Matt Mills’ header, denying Petr Cech, on his first start of the season, a cleansheet to leave the normally miserly Blues with one shutout in seven matches this season.
Holland, who felt Cech was blameless for a header beating him from 16 yards, said: “I thought it was probably their only way that they looked dangerous all night, the set-plays. It was a concern for us all night.
“We were very happy with the performance from the team.
“It’s nice not to have extra-time. We don’t have any new injuries, we’ve progressed to the next round of the competition.
“Several of our players who probably needed a game now have 90 minutes under their belts heading into two or three important fixtures. It’s a good situation to be in.”
Holland praised Zouma’s contribution.
“Without being particularly tested, he was immaculate,” he said. “If you can also be a threat in the opposition’s penalty box that’s a big bonus. He fed on to a second ball from a corner, showed really good instincts and got a goal which I’m sure he’ll always remember on his first appearance.”
Bolton boss Dougie Freedman was pleased with his side’s display, believing their luck will soon turn.
“We had a plan and the plan was to get into the second half still in the game,” he said.
“That’s what happened. In the last 10, 15 minutes we gave it a right good go, played a bit more expansive.
“A little bit more quality would have taken it to extra-time.
“Overall I think we gave a good performance.”