Chelsea continued the defence of their FA Cup crown with a comfortable 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at Stamford Bridge in the fourth round on Sunday.
The first half saw chances come few and far between, with Sheffield Wednesday defending resolutely by lining up twin blocks to deny the hosts any space to create the chances. Indeed, the biggest opening for Chelsea came through a penalty, not long after the Owls had a spot-kick decision overturned by VAR.
Cesar Azpilicueta was tripped inside the Sheffield Wednesday box by Sam Hutchinson, and Willian stepped up to take the penalty after initially offering the chance to debutant Gonzalo Higuain. And, the Brazilian made no error in converting from the spot, as Chelsea broke the deadlock.
There were no other big opportunities on offer in the first period, but it was all Chelsea after the half-time break as the chances started flowing. The Blues though, had to wait till the 64th minute to double their advantage, and it was worth the wait.
Callum Hudson-Odoi perfectly trapped Andreas Christensen’s long pass inside the opposition box before calmly slotting the ball past Keiren Westwood. The win was rounded off twenty minutes later by Willian, who completed his brace with a stunning first time volley, after linking up well with Olivier Giroud.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 27, 2019
In the end, Chelsea were comfortable in their 3-0 win as they got a step closer to defending their FA Cup title come May. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Maurizio Sarri’s men.
Willy Caballero: 6/10
Caballero was called into action early on, which was nothing more than a regulation save. Thereafter, he had the best seat in the house to see Chelsea dominate the game, in what is likely to be one of his easier outings in England (We know we said that for the win over Nottingham Forest as well, but this was a cruise).
Cesar Azpilicueta: 7/10
Sunday’s was a telling performance by Azpilicueta, who looked like a man on a mission on his forward forays. The Chelsea skipper was at hand to support Callum Hudson-Odoi quite well, before going on to win the penalty that Willian converted.
Barely troubled at the back, the Spaniard never let his marker get the better of him. Just the kind of performance that was needed to reduce the speculation over the right-back slot at Chelsea.
Andreas Christensen: 8/10
As expected, Christensen replaced David Luiz for a cup game, and the Dane was another player who wanted to prove a point. While there were no concerns at the back, the Chelsea academy graduate impressed with his enterprising attitude on the ball, particularly when he produced a scintillating pass for Hudson-Odoi to score from. Snapping at the heels.
Antonio Rudiger: 7/10
Steven Fletcher has often showed that he can be a nippy customer despite his strong frame. But, Rudiger took it upon himself to shut down the Sheffield Wednesday striker, who did nothing to worry the German. Not as big a threat during set-piece situations.
Marco Alonso: 6/10
Quite a disappointing performance by Alonso, considering there wasn’t much of a threat from Sheffield Wednesday at the back. Inexplicably, the Spaniard did not bombard forward as much as he usually does, even though the opportunities seemed to be presenting themselves. In a sort of a rut that he needs to get out of soon.
Mateo Kovacic: 8/10
With Jorginho not in the side, the job of orchestrating fell on the able shoulders of Mateo Kovacic, who took it up with aplomb. While playing the Kante role, the Croat looked to drive his side forward at every given opportunity while also pulling the strings effortlessly.
Slotted into the deepest role once Ethan Ampadu was taken off before Jorginho was introduced late on. Might have been the most fouled player with Sam Hutchinson constantly needling him. Solid display, however.
Ethan Ampadu: 7/10
For once the deepest position in midfield was that of the holding midfielder, a role that Ampadu played quite well for the most part. Energetic in the middle of the park, his desire played a key role in the defence enjoying a virtual day off.
The Welshman looked to bypass the defensive block by playing long passes, which opened up play quite well. Errors crept into his game in the second half before he was eventually taken off for Loftus-Cheek.
Ross Barkley: 6/10
Another evening when Barkley disappointed. While he was a lively customer in the middle of the park, the Englishman was sloppy on the ball, losing the ball a number of times in strong positions on the pitch. His early season form is nowhere to be seen, which must be worrying for Sarri.
Callum Hudson-Odoi: 7/10
Callum Hudson-Odoi’s game by numbers vs. Sheffield Wednesday:
60 (87%) passes completed
5 (83%) take-ons completed
2 (100%) tackles won
1 chance created
Made in Chelsea. 🔵 pic.twitter.com/sFFsd9kviI
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 27, 2019
The speculation surrounding his future is growing like wildfire, but Hudson-Odoi did start. In the first half, it looked like the youngster’s head was not in the right space, although he improved drastically post the break. The teenager trapped the ball perfectly before coolly finishing for his goal.
End product needs improving, but this was another positive performance. Hudson-Odoi is likely to be another big miss if he is indeed sold.
Gonzalo Higuain: 7/10
Mere days after sealing his loan move to Chelsea, Higuain started his first game. The Argentine though, was isolated for the most part and did not see much of the ball. But, he timed his runs perfectly, a far cry from Alvaro Morata, who constantly found himself being caught offside. Ought to do better as his understanding with his teammates improves, but this was a decent debut.
Involved in one of the classiest moments of the season when he offered Higuain the penalty before he took it. Made no error in converting from the spot. His second goal was a thing of beauty, from his link-up with Olivier Giroud to the first-time volley which is a hard shot to convert. Not involved much apart from the two moments.
50 – Willian has now scored 50 goals in all competitions for Chelsea, including nine in 22 FA Cup appearances. Milestone. pic.twitter.com/UbYTiAhRe0
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 27, 2019
Ruben Loftus-Cheek: 6/10
On his return from a back injury, Loftus-Cheek was afforded half-an-hour on the pitch. The Englishman did not look like he missed a step while on the sidelines, creating plenty of trouble with his driving runs. Will be an option to take the place of the misfiring Barkley.
Olivier Giroud: N/A
On for the last ten minutes, Giroud made a telling impact on the game as he held the ball well before releasing it at the perfect moment for Willian to score his goal. Might have to suffice with more such cameos in the coming weeks, particularly in the Premier League.
On for the last few minutes, Jorginho helped see the game out.