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- German association football manager and former player
Lewis Hall – making his first team debut for the European – gave a glimpse of the quality that has so many at the club believing he is a star in the making.
Yes, he was up against non-league opposition and surrounded by internationals. But the 17-year-old looked every bit the part when given his big chance by Thomas Tuchel.
Hall was the provider for two of Chelsea’s goals in their 5-1 win that saw them book their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup – but was also calm and composed at the back – notably denying Kabongo Tshimanga when the Chesterfield forward looked set to score in the first half.
So impressive was his performance that he broke down after the break with cramp as his efforts caught up with him. But with Thomas Tuchel having made all five substitutes by that stage, Hall dusted himself off and bravely played on until the end.
The teenager was outstanding – suggesting he could go on to follow in the footsteps of Mason Mount, Reece James, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Trevoh Chalobah as the latest home-grown talent to make the breakthrough. And it was a measure of Tuchel’s faith in him that he was the only youth star to be named in a starting XI that was designed to avoid any potential scare against National League leaders, Chesterfield.
Tuchel acknowledged the youngster’s contribution – but was measured in his praise.
“It’s good,” he said. “There is no need to talk it down artificially, but there is no need to get super overwhelmed because we played against a fifth division team and he is part of a strong squad. So put the things in relation to the demands and we can continue.”
Hall got the call based on how impressive he has been since being called up to train with the first team – but Tuchel admitted he did not know how he would handle the demands of the first team.
“It was his performance in general and his attitude in training,” he said when explaining the reason for his selection. “The quality he showed was very calm and very good in our possession games and the little games he trained in. We never really trained with the full squad so it was more small-sided games, but he was good.”
This was a Chelsea team that suggested Tuchel knows he cannot afford any further slip ups in a season that has already seen them virtually cut adrift in the Premier League title race just a week into the new year.
After winning the Champions League in his first four months, the German needs to build on that success – and it looks like cup competitions are his only hope of more silverware.
With one foot in the Carabao Cup Final, the Club World Cup to come and the Champions League knockout stages to look forward to, there is still plenty to play for.
But was no sign of him taking any risks – even against non-league opposition, with Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech all starting.
Tuchel clearly wanted to get the job done with minimum fuss – and by 20 minutes the tie was over as a contest.
Werner fired Chelsea ahead after just six minutes – converting into an empty net from close range after Hudson-Odoi’s effort.
Chesterfield then had the chance to level the scores when Tshimanga looked set to connect with Gavin Gunning’s lofted free kick from eight yards out.
That was where Hall stepped up – doing just enough to put the striker off before clearing the danger.
Within moments the game was effectively over.
Hudson-Odoi was given time and space to cut in from the left and curl a 20-yard shot into the far corner after 18 minutes.
Two minutes later Hall won the ball off Jeff King high up the pitch and crossed to Lukaku to add a third.
The defender tried his luck from range six minutes before half time, which Scott Loach could only parry and Andreas Christensen headed over the line to make it 4-0 at the break.
If those at Stamford Bridge expected the floodgates to open, it did not happen.
Ziyech made it 5-0 with a penalty 10 minutes after the restart – and with Tuchel making a host of changes, Chelsea’s fluidity suffered.
Chesterfield got the goal their fans had be craving with substitute Akwasi Assante giving the visitors a deserved consolation after Tshimanga’s strike was only parried by Marcus Bettinelli.