'He's so quick': Chesterfield midfielder says he was blown away by the speed of Chelsea's £40m man after facing him

Chesterfield’s Manny Oyeleke revealed how enthralled he was by the quality Chelsea maestro Mateo Kovacic.

Writing for The Athletic, Oyeleke detailed what it was like to face the Croatian international during last Saturday’s FA Cup tie.

Containing Kovacic

The Spireites midfielder had the hard task of trying to contain Kovacic under the Stamford Bridge spotlight.

After just six minutes, he had already failed in his mission.

Photo by Chris Lee – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Chelsea’s captain for the night managed to find some space through the heart of Chesterfield’s midriff and drove goalward.

He fed Hakim Ziyech, whose shot deflected fell neatly into the path of Timo Werner, who had a simple tap in to open up the flood gates.

Goals galore

Thomas Tuchel’s relentless team scored another three times before the interval.

Callum Hudson-Odoi curled a neat effort past the outstretched palms of Scott Loach, before Romelu Lukaku converted his first of the competition.

Andreas Christensen’s looping header made it 4-0 by the break.

Ziyech smashed the fifth from the penalty spot ten minutes into the second half.

Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images

However, arguably the loudest roar of the evening came from the away end.

Courageous Chesterfield; classy Kova

With ten minutes of time remaining, Akwasi Asante put the ball into an empty net after Marcus Bettinelli’s save fell perfectly into his path.

It was a delightful end to what had been a brilliant learning curve for the Chesterfield players.

Especially Oyeleke, who will struggle to find a tougher opponent across his career than Kovacic.

Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images

“I happened to be up against (Mateo) Kovacic — he is so, so good,” said the 29-year-old.

“He’s so quick on the counter-attack. It’s the little touches and the little runs. He’s really sharp.

“It was my job to stop him as he was on my side. It was tough but enjoyable seeing him up close and seeing what he does.

“The little no-looks (passes). He was probably only in second gear as well which lets you know how high the levels are.”

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Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.