Antonio Conte urged his Chelsea players to be more ruthless after Bristol Rovers mounted a second-half fightback to give the Blues a big scare in their 3-2 win against the League One strugglers in the second round of the EFL Cup.
A double from Michy Batshuayi and a goal from Victor Moses put a rotated Chelsea side in control by half-time at Stamford Bridge despite Peter Hartley’s 35th-minute header, but Conte’s men wobbled after the break when Ellis Harrison cut the deficit to one from the penalty spot on 48 minutes.
Harrison skimmed the crossbar with a shot soon after and Jermaine Easter forced a brilliant flying save from Asmir Begovic as Bristol Rovers poured forward, and Conte was forced to call upon stellar substitutes in the form of Eden Hazard, John Terry and Oscar in order to see out the victory.
After the match, Conte lamented his team’s failure to put themselves out of sight by half-time, and admitted that Ola Aina’s departure through injury on 77 minutes has further underlined Chelsea’s need to sign at least one more defender in what remains of August.
“I knew the atmosphere around this cup and I could tell that these games are very tough for all [teams],” Conte said. “It’s a pity because we were dominating the game and then we suffered.
“We created a lot of chances in the first half to score many goals but I don’t like when you concede two goals with a free kick and with a penalty.
“We must understand that when you have the opportunity to kill the game, you must kill the game. When you leave it open, a situation like tonight can happen and you stay until the end afraid to draw the game.
“We must improve in this aspect. We must feel the danger in every circumstance. When there is a free kick or a corner in England, usually it can be a great chance to concede a goal.”
Asked whether Aina’s injury has made signing another defender even more important, Conte replied: “[The club and I] stay in contact every day and we are trying to find the right solution to improve this team.
“I hope that Aina’s injury is not a serious one, because we would have only four defenders for Burnley. I’m a bit worried.”
The other casualty of Bristol Rovers’ fightback was academy graduate Nathaniel Chalobah, who failed to make his long-awaited Chelsea debut from the bench despite warming up on the touchline for almost the entirety of the second half.
“”The first disappointment is mine because I wanted to put Chalobah in the second half, but the situation didn’t permit this,” Conte added. “I preferred to put Oscar until the end because the situation can become very dangerous. But it’s a pity because I wanted to permit him to play, also because he deserves to play. He’s a good young player.”