In the first of the Emirates FA Cup fifth-round action, Chelsea made sure they showed no complacency as they comfortably brushed aside Hull by four goals to nil. Willian helped himself to a brace while Pedro and Olivier Giroud also got on the scoresheet.
Ahead of their match against Barcelona in midweek, Antonio Conte chose to rest some of his key players; Cesar Azpilicueta, N’Golo Kante and Eden Hazard were all replaced in the starting XI.
The Blues definitely started how they meant to go on and after a sloppy Hull pass was seized upon by debutant Emerson Palmieri; Willian did the rest with a lovely curling effort from the edge of the box on his weaker left foot. If that didn’t knock the stuffing out the Tigers’ chances of a win then Pedro’s goal certainly did. He was brilliantly picked out by his Spanish teammate Cesc Fabregas and after a great first touch, the former Barca winger stayed calm and collected to roll the ball past David Marshall, who had made some good saves to deny the home side.
The Premier League champions really turned on the style and within five minutes, the visitors were returning the ball to the centre circle. Yet again, it was that man Willian with another goal from outside the box. After exchanging a neat one-two with Giroud 30 yards out, he drove towards the penalty area and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner from 25 yards. It was the nail in the proverbial coffin for Hull, who were blown away by attack after attack.
The former Arsenal striker turned providing into scoring, netting his first Blues goal from inside the six-yard box. Emerson managed to find some space down the left-hand side and pulled a low cross back to Giroud who did what he does best and slid the ball beneath Marshall to ensure Chelsea’s safe passage into the next round.
Caballero loves a penalty save
With it being a case of job done before the break, Conte’s side started the second period slowly and conceded a penalty when Fabregas tripped Harry Wilson in the box. However, Willy Caballero was equal to David Meyler’s well-struck spot-kick, making it five saves out of his last eight penalties faced (excluding shootouts).
The Blues were hungry for a fifth, with one man in particular in search of his first career hat-trick. Despite his persistence, it just wouldn’t go in for Willian, with Jackson Irvine blocking a shot that looked destined for the back of the net before the outside of the post stopped him from taking home the match ball in the dying moments.
The Brazilian was the best player on the pitch by a mile on Friday evening and has undoubtedly put himself forward for a start against Ernesto Valverde’s side on Tuesday night, with Conte conceding that he has “many good doubts” ahead of selecting his best team to face the Catalan giants.
With Chelsea in the hat for the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, it presents their most realistic chance at some silverware and the professional manner in which they secured the win will have brought much pleasure to their Italian boss.