Brave Saddlers beaten by cup holders...WALSALL manager Dean Smith was proud of his team’s performance despite losing 4-1 to Capital One Cup holders Chelsea.
Well-taken goals from Ramires, Loic Remy, Kenedy and Pedro ensured the Premier League champions’ progression into the last 16.
James O’Connor gave the Saddlers hope when he made it 2-1 on the stroke of half-time, but Jose Mourinho’s Blues ultimately proved too strong.
The scoreline was harsh on Walsall, who acquitted themselves well against a formidable Chelsea team.
And Smith was pleased with how his charges performed in front of more than 10,500 at the Banks’s.
“We can take an awful lot from the game because we played a quality team and at times we took the game to them,” said Smith.
“The scoreline was disappointing - it probably flattered them.
"They started both halves really well and the third goal (seven minutes after half-time) probably killed the game.
"But the way we played, and the way we stuck to our philosophy, was a credit to the players.
"It’s one of those few occasions where we got beat because they’ve got better players."
Chelsea fielded a strong starting line-up, containing captain John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Radamel Falcao.
“They showed their quality in the end,” said Smith.
“It was very difficult for us against the league champions.
“They paid us the ultimate respect with the team they played, and they paid the competition the ultimate respect.
“I wasn’t surprised by their team.
“Their success criteria is totally difficult to ours and is to win competitions - the League Cup, FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League.
“So they had to come here and get the win, which they did.
“But I’d like to think we tested them and gave them a game.”
Smith also reserved praise for two of the Saddlers’ star performers – goalscorer O’Connor and the in-form Romaine Sawyers.
“James is an experienced player and he knows his way around a football pitch,” said Smith.
“I was pleased to see him pop up with a goal.
“But Romaine was outstanding. The biggest complement I can give him is that if he had been playing in their team, you wouldn’t have noticed.
“The way he handled the ball and used his body against world class players was excellent. His distribution was very good.”
The Saddlers return to league action against Crewe on Saturday and Smith is hopeful that top-scorer Tom Bradshaw will feature after missing the Chelsea game with a groin strain.
“He was very, very close for the Chelsea game but we didn’t want to risk him because of his track record of injuries over the last season,” he added.