Chelsea cruised into the fifth round of the FA cup after defeating Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. Two goals from Michy Batshuayi, taking him into double figures for the season, and a textbook free kick from Marcos Alonso was enough to see off the visitors.
Rafa Benitez opted for a 3-5-2 formation, which for the most part ended up as a 5-3-2, with both wingbacks almost constantly pinned back. They did however reduce us to few chances in the opening half hour. It was Newcastle who registered the first effort of the match. Jonjo Shelvey getting across the front of Christensen to turn a cross from the left wing wide at the near post.
Chelsea had a better link between midfield and attack than in some of our previous matches, notably against Norwich, and this was thanks to Hazard, and for the most part Pedro dropping off deeper to receive the ball. This was how our opening goal was created. Rudiger won the ball and played into Pedro, who had dropped off right of centre around the halfway line. He curled a sublime ball over the top into the path of Hazard, who then found Alonso inside him in the penalty area. The Newcastle centre backs were sucked across towards the ball, and Alonso squared to Batshuayi who tucked it away.
Newcastle had a chance shortly after when the increasingly isolated Gayle got in down the inside left channel, and his shot across Caballero was held as he dived to his left.
Our chances were all being created from transitional attacks, winning the ball and switching quickly from defence to attack. Newcastle struggled to defend as well as we attacked in transition, and the second goal came from one of these moves. Drinkwater won the ball in midfield, and found Pedro, again causing problems by dropping deeper to receive the ball. He played in Hazard down the left. Their back three now isolated, Hazard dissected them with a pass to Batshuayi right of centre, and his shot was deflected over the keeper and bounced into the goal for his second of the match. Another lightning quick counter attacking move.
Newcastle had a couple of chances late in the half. Shelvey, mobile in midfield and probably the visitor’s best player on the day, had a shot turned round the post. From the resulting corner, the ball was initially cleared, but came back in from the right side, and Manquillo’s deflected shot was turned around by Caballero again.
With Benitez characteristically sticking with the same shape, and increasingly negative tactics when already behind, the second half never looked like seeing Newcastle get back into the match. The Newcastle strikers were increasingly dropping deeper to help out their midfield, and often picked up Kante and Drinkwater, leaving their whole side very deep, and occasionally, all in their own half of the pitch. Again, quick balls into the front line in transition seemed to be our best hope of scoring a third. Pedro was again our most creative player. Newcastle found it hard to pick him up when he dropped deeper. A good move down the left saw right wingback Zappacosta, another who played well, cross to left wingback Alonso, and the Spaniard hit a well controlled volley goal wards, but Darlow was equal to it. Drinkwater also had a volleyed effort from the edge of the box, but this deflected wide.
A ball switched wide for Zappacosta on the left touchline was well controlled, and he was upended as he cut inside. It looked tailor made for Alonso, and he duly whipped it left footed into the net. Always curling away from him, Darlow had no chance.
This cued substitutions, with Barkley immediately entering the match, followed shortly after by Ampadu and Hudson-Odoi. The latter looked particularly impressive, with some decent bursts inside from his left wing birth, followed by excellent cross-field balls to Zappacosta.
No more chances of note were forthcoming, but it had been a performance good enough to seal a comfortable passage to the fifth round.
Chelsea (3-4-3) 3 (Batshauyi 31,44), (Alonso 72)
Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill ©;
Zappacosta, Kante,(Ampadu 78) Drinkwater, Alonso;
Pedro, (Hudson-Odoi 81), Batshuayi, Hazard, Barkley 73)
Newcastle 3-5-2) 0
Mbemba, Lascelles, Clark;
Manquillo, (Murphy 77), Hayden, (Atsu 83), Saivet, Shelvey, Haidara;
Ritchie, Gayle, (Joselu 64)