Chelsea cruised into the quarter finals of the FA cup with a 4-0 home win over Hull City, in a match that was done and dusted by half time.
With Barcelona next up on Tuesday, Conte opted to rotate the squad for the visit of championship side Hull. Caballero came in for Courtois between the posts, while Ethan Ampadu also got another start in the middle of a back three, Cahill and Rudiger either side of him. In a 3-4-3 shape, new signing Emerson was also given his debut at left wing back, Moses, Hazard, Christensen, and Kante among those rested in addition to Courtois. Olivier Giroud started up front, flanked by Willian and Pedro.
When Hull had possession, they played with a 4-3-3 system, but as soon as they lost the ball their full backs tucked in and marked Pedro and Willian, even when those two drifted inside. The Hull wingers, Diomande and Wilson, then dropped in to cover our wingbacks, leaving their shape as more of a 6-3-1 without the ball. Despite this tactic, evidently employed to reduce our threat in wide areas, and negate the effect Pedro and Willian would have, the visitor’s lack of pressure on the ball anywhere was their downfall. This was particularly the case in the centre of midfield. Drinkwater and Fabregas were given acres of space in which to operate, and their excellent distribution forward was tearing the visitors open. But before that story had even been told we were one to the good. Giroud pressurised the Hull midfield, winning the ball and diverting it into Willian’s path. The Brazilian took it on, and bent a fantastic left footed effort round the defender and into the far top corner. 1-0 in less than two minutes. The previously mentioned lack of pressure from Hull from here on in, and the high tempo play coupled with incisive forward passing from Chelsea made it look like this may well be killed as a contest early doors, and that was to be the case. Giroud nearly doubled the lead after a great diagonal ball out wide by Drinkwater found Zappacosta, whose ball inside from the right wing was flicked onto Giroud by Pedro, but the Frenchman’s outside of the right foot volley flew narrowly over. Fabregas and Drinkwater were revelling in the space afforded to them in the centre of the pitch, and a beautiful Cesc through ball to Pedro was just too far in front for the Spaniard to keep control of as the keeper advanced. Drinkwater, who was playing just as well as Fabregas, then advanced forward down the left, played a one-two with Pedro, before crossing low towards Giroud at the fat post, but he couldn’t quite stretch far enough to get on the end of it.
The score was in the end doubled just short of the half hour mark, in a carbon copy of the earlier Pedro chance, Zappacosta played the ball inside to Cesc, who pinged a fantastic ball through to his fellow countryman, which Pedro controlled brilliantly in the air, before slotting past Marshall.
While they didn’t press in midfield, Hull’s tactics for dealing with wingers Pedro and Willian were also floundering, as when they dropped off to receive the ball deeper, they were often not followed, or managed to turn away from trouble easily.
Willian was playing brilliantly, and linking very well with Giroud, and this combination brought about the third goal of the night. Giroud dribbled inside towards the Hull defence, before laying off to Willian, who took a touch before dispatching right footed into the bottom corner. The scenario was reversed as we went clear by four, when a low Willian cross for Giroud was diverted in at the near post with an extremely polished finish by our new acquisition.
The match as a contest was over at the break, and Chelsea didn’t really turn up after the interval. There were few chances of note by the home side, and the visitors rallied somewhat to enjoy more possession and create some chances of their own. They won a penalty early on when Harry Wilson changed direction to cut into the penalty area down the right side, and was up ended by Fabregas. Unfortunately for Wilson, he fell awkwardly on his shoulder and would be replaced shortly after as he was not fit to continue. Caballero pulled of a good save to his right from Meyler’s spot kick to retain his clean sheet. He would later make a couple of good saves, one from Irvine as the ball fell to him on the edge of the area, which Caballero saved low to his left, another as he rushed from his line to narrow the angle to Dicko, after he ghosted past Ampadu.
With the result all but sealed at the break, Conte took the opportunity to bring on a couple of youngster from the bench. Hudson-Odoi came on at half time, followed later by Kyle Scott. Both played a part in our best chance of the half. Scott received the ball just outside our own area after we won the ball from a Hull corner, he released Hudson-Odoi down the left, three versus two on the break now, he squared to Willian, who took too long to shoot, but managed to help it onto Zappacosta who was supporting on the right, and Marshall got down well to turn his effort around the far post. Drinkwater would later have a deflected volley from the edge of the area well saved by Marshall. Willian nearly got his hat-trick, but was denied by the outside of the far post after a shot from range, but that was all the second half mustered in terms of chances. The damage had been done in the first forty-five minutes.
Chelsea now advance to the quarterfinals, where we face Leicester City at the King Power stadium.
Chelsea (3-4-3) 4 (Willian 2, 32 Pedro 27, Giroud 42)
Cahill, © Ampadu, Rudiger;
Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Fabregas, (Kyle Scott 62) Emerson;
Willian, Giroud, (Morata 70) Pedro, (Hudson-Odoi 45)
Hull City (4-3-3) 0
Meyler, Dawson, MacDonald, Clark;
Irvine, (Batty 88) Stewart, Goebel;
Wilson, (Toral 55) Dicko, (Campbell 72) Diomande