Michy Batshuayi and Fikayo Tomori sent Chelsea through to the FA Cup fifth round with a 2-1 win at Hull City.
An early opener from striker Batshuayi calmed any Chelsea nerves, before Tomori’s header stretched their lead in the second half.
Hull’s reply was a fortunate one, Kamil Grosicki’s free-kick taking a giant deflection off Mateo Kovacic.
The hosts began to believe they could force a replay, but Chelsea withstood the late scare to clinch a place in the last 16 of the competition.
Chelsea swept ahead in the sixth minute from their first serious attack, with the ball falling to Batshuayi close to the penalty spot. The Belgian striker clattered his shot and a deflection off Ryan Tafazolli carried it beyond George Long in the Hull goal.
That made it look bleak for the hosts, given they had never beaten Chelsea in 10 previous FA Cup matches.
Despite showing eight changes from the side that drew with Arsenal on Tuesday, Chelsea’s starting XI was strong and signalled boss Frank Lampard’s eagerness to win the tie at the first attempt.
Lampard, a four-time FA Cup winner in his playing days, would have been encouraged by Chelsea’s forward momentum as Cesar Azpilicueta had a shot blocked before Batshuayi saw an effort deflect wide.
The visitors should have doubled their lead when Ross Barkley made a bright run through the heart of the Hull defence, but the England midfielder’s strike was unconvincing and Long blocked, with the Hull goalkeeper later also twice denying Mason Mount and parrying an Azpilicueta shot.
Lampard led Derby County to the fifth round last season before Brighton and Hove Albion ended their campaign, but with Chelsea the trophy is always a target.
The FA Cup represents their best chance of silverware this season, given the Premier League is a Liverpool procession, their EFL Cup campaign is over, and Bayern Munich await the Blues in the Champions League’s first knockout round.
Jarrod Bowen has been a goalscoring phenomenon in the second tier of English football and gave a glimpse of his quality just before the hour with a darting run from midfield and a shot that cleared the Chelsea bar by barely a foot.
Hull’s hopes were fading when Tomori headed a wonderfully clipped Barkley free-kick inside the left post in the 64th minute for Chelsea’s second.
Pedro drilled narrowly wide before chipping into the side-netting, before Hull’s reply came with 12 minutes remaining when substitute Grosicki’s free-kick took its wild deflection off Kovacic and flew inside the left post.
What it means? Plenty to Lampard…
The Chelsea boss has every reason to fancy his team’s chances of going all the way. He became conditioned to being a contender as a player and will make sure his men know the importance this competition holds to the club. He can field a stronger side than the one Hull faced and will surely look to do so if Chelsea draw Premier League opposition next.
Mount and Barkley look the part
Perhaps allowances for the significance of this should be made because this was second-tier opposition for Chelsea, but Mount and Barkley were able to run the show for long stretches. Once Mount was substituted after the second goal, it felt as though the visitors were significantly weakened, and Hull sensed it, enjoying their best spell of the game.
Batshuayi goal disguises Chelsea’s lack of a finisher
The opener came with a degree of fortune, given Batshuayi’s shot, though on target, took a hefty deflection that made sure it hit the back of the net. Chelsea dominated this game for prolonged periods and had a bundle of chances. With a first-rate finisher, Chelsea would have hustled Hull out of the game by the hour mark. The transfer window remains open, Frank.
Key Opta Facts
– Chelsea are unbeaten in 16 games against Hull City, winning 14 and drawing two since a 3-0 defeat in October 1988.
– Hull have won none of their 11 FA Cup games against Chelsea (D3 L8).
– Chelsea have only lost one of their last 47 FA Cup matches against sides in the second tier (W37 D9), with that loss coming against Barnsley in the 2007-08 quarter-finals.
– Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi has been directly involved in 18 goals in 18 starts in English domestic cup competitions, scoring 15 goals and assisting a further three.
– Frank Lampard has been on the winning side in each of his last six meetings with Hull City as a player or manager; two as a player with Chelsea and Manchester City and four as a manager with Chelsea and Derby County.
Chelsea return to Premier League duty next Saturday with a trip to face Leicester City, who sit eight points above them in third place. Hull have a home clash with Huddersfield Town in the Championship on Tuesday.
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