Antonio Conte hailed Ethan Ampadu after the 17-year-old’s impressive performance at the heart of Chelsea’s defence against Bournemouth.
Ampadu was shown a yellow card for a challenge on Jermain Defoe after just 90 seconds at Stamford Bridge, where Alvaro Morata’s injury-time winner – scored straight after the Cherries had equalised – took Chelsea through to the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup.
Ampadu, signed from Exeter City during the summer, settled and produced an excellent display.
“It is not simple for a defender to play with a yellow card after one minute. He played a good game with this problem,” Blues boss Conte said after the 2-1 victory.
“You have to play 93 or 94 minutes with this danger and he showed great maturity and a great performance.
“I have spoken about this player in an enthusiastic way because I have said that despite being a young age he has great maturity, and I think he has deserved to play.”
Conte also praised Willian, who scored the opening goal but looked jaded before being taken off along with Pedro in the second half.
Conte insisted: “I’m very happy with Willian. He scored and I think he played a really good game with great commitment, the same as Pedro.
“Don’t forget that this was their third game in a row and when you play three games in seven days usually you pay something in the physical aspect. I think for 60 minutes they gave us a lot of quality.”
Chelsea will now face Arsenal over two legs for a place in the final and Conte believes their progression to the semi-finals is a “remarkable achievement” given that his fringe players have been heavily involved in the tournament.
They had to withstand periods of second-half pressure against Bournemouth, but Conte was more than satisfied with their evening’s work.
“The most important thing is that we are in the semi-final,” he said.
“Last season we were eliminated in the second round against West Ham and this season we must be happy for this achievement to reach the semi-final of one of the two cups in England.
“It is great for us, especially because we reached the semi-final with a lot of rotation.
“I’m very happy. I had a good response from my players and I hope to continue in this way.
“Tonight players had the chance to play from the start and I think I had a good response. I’m very happy with the performance.”