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Chelsea survive a scare against League Two Wimbledon to squeeze through in Carabao Cup

Chelsea 2-1 AFC Wimbledon (Madueke pen 45+1′, Fernandez 72′ | Tilley pen 19′)

From the moment that James Tilley smashed his penalty straight down the middle of the goal toNoni Madueke’s equaliser, the thousands of AFC Wimbledon fans who made the short journey to Fulham Broadway savoured every second.

They were sat behind the Shed End’s “The Pride of London” banner and for 27 glorious minutes, they were, the temporary kings of King’s Road. Here was a League Two team beating Europe’s biggest spenders on their own patch. No wonder they roared every Wimbledon pass, and jeered every Chelsea mistake.

It was unlikely to last, but fun while it did and the only regret the Dons will have is that they gifted Chelsea their goals. Madueke levelled from 12-yards after winning it himself, before Enzo Fernandez slid into an empty net after Alex Bass’ attempted clearance bounced off Ian Maatsen and into his path.

Robert Sanchez set the tone for Chelsea’s aimless first half by careering into Harry Pell to concede the first spot-kick, while Chelsea failed to register a shot on target until Madueke’s 45th-minute equaliser despite having 88 per cent possession.

Madueke’s shushing of the away fans felt rather uncharitable, like a track athlete celebrating after winning the 100m race at their children’s sports day, but he had a better evening than most in a heavily rotated side. He’ll be pleased too, given Chelsea have struck a £45m deal with Manchester City winger Cole Palmer, another direct competitor for his place.

Wimbledon have Football Manager’s logo splashed across their shirts which felt fitting at Stamford Bridge given Boehly seems to be playing the game in real life.

Mauricio Pochettino made seven changes from the win against Luton and given the spinning nature of Chelsea’s revolving door, it would be no surprise if one or two of Wednesday’s starters move on before Friday’s deadline. Marc Cucurella is the subject of interest from Manchester United, while captain for the night Conor Gallagher has been linked with numerous clubs.

It was a testament to Wimbledon’s efforts, that Chelsea’s A-teamers were gradually peeled from the bench: Nicolas Jackson at half-time, Fernandez after 65 minutes, Moises Caicedo after 80. Levi Colwill was one of the four to retain their places, but grimaced as he came off holding his left ankle.

There was late chaos at both ends. Ali Al-Hamadi, a livewire of a centre-forward, almost grabbed a famous equaliser in the final minute before Fernandez fluffed a second chance to score into a vacant goal as Chelsea countered with Bass stranded upfield after a corner.

It was a satisfactory conclusion for Pochettino, who spent much of the evening quietly seething.

The Argentine was famously sniffy about domestic cups during his time at Tottenham, once remarking that winning the Carabao Cup would “not change the life” of the club. It was one of the few gripes that Spurs supporters had with the Argentine. Until now, at least.

It is unlikely to change Chelsea’s life either. Qualifying for the Champions League is far more imperative to Boehly’s grand amortisation plan. But Pochettino’s messaging has changed: “I want to win the Carabao Cup, I want to win the FA Cup, I want to win the Premier League,” he declared beforehand.

All three trophies remain up for grabs, but only just.

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