MATCH REPORT: CHELSEA 4 CARDIFF CITY 1
The defence of the FA Cup continues but Chelsea were made to work hard by a Cardiff side that gave as good as they got in the first half.
Didier Drogba once again presented Chelsea with a great platform, scoring within seconds of the start for the second home game running.
But unlike the Arsenal match it was the visitors who scored next, Michael Chopra finding the net with a chance that was not their first of the match by any means.
There was plenty to talk about in the Chelsea dressing room at half-time and whatever was said had an effect. Cardiff were not without opportunities second-half, especially in a period before the home side's fourth goal, but Chelsea began to assert our authority when Michael Ballack scored the second soon after the restart.
There had been no surprises in Carlo Ancelotti's line-up. It was the one named yesterday.
It took less that two minutes for Chelsea to take the lead with a goal made in Africa - Drogba left to run free and comfortably finishing with his second touch after Mikel's long pass over the defence.
It took a well-placed Alex clearance to prevent Cardiff striking straight back, a header from tall centre-back Gyepes cleared.
The Brazilian didn't do so well when turned by Bothroyd just inside the Chelsea half in the ninth minute. Having pulled the striker to the ground he was shown a yellow card.
Chelsea may have been in the lead but Cardiff began to get on top. Hilario at full-stretch saved a header from the Welsh side's centre-back Gerrard. Then Chopra headed over when the corner that followed was headed down.
Chopra levelled it up to one booking apiece when the former Newcastle man caught Carvalho late. He was soon to level it up to one goal apiece.
Cardiff were doing a fair job of hustling Chelsea when we had possession but they still had to contend with Drogba who was threatening something every time the ball came near. On 25 minutes the Ivorian connected with a cross with an overhead kick but keeper Marshall didn't need to move to catch it.
Five minutes later Zhirkov, slotting in at left-back, found himself on the right after taking a corner and whipped in a cross that Alex backheeled. Drogba couldn't quite pounce upon it.
It has to said that Cardiff's equaliser, when it came, was not a shock. The Chelsea defence certainly didn't lack for top-level experience but it was lacking cohesion.
On 33 minutes Zhirkov allowed Burke space to cross and Chopra escaped Alex to head in.
Lampard shot over when Drogba laid the ball off but by far the best attempt to regain the lead before the break was by Sturridge, curling a 25-yarder with the outside of his boot just the wrong side of the post.
Kalou was a half-time substitution for Joe Cole who had struggled to make an impact.
Drogba smashed a low free-kick two minutes into the restart but it didn't have the velocity to beat Marshall at the near post.
Instead the top scorer created the second goal. Not as rapid a strike following the whistle as the first goal, it still only took five minutes for Ballack to find the net.
Once again the Cardiff defence were slow to pick up the run and when Drogba's pass bounced high, the German guided it past the keeper with his left-foot.
There was more purpose about Chelsea now. Lampard nicked possession and shot over.
It was a game with strong challenges peppered throughout and Carvalho became the next booked player for chopping Bothroyd from behind. The Chelsea man needed stitches in his eyebrow after the challenge.
Sturridge put the win pretty much beyond doubt on 68 minutes when he slotted through the keeper's legs. The England Under 21 international had begun the surge into the Cardiff area by finding Drogba. The Chelsea number 11's flick was helped back into Sturridge's path by a defender and the finish was composed.
Malouda came on for Sturridge for the last quarter-of-an-hour and immediately struck a shot on the slide from 35 yards that Marshall pouched.
Cardiff had looked a tiring side but with 10 minutes to play, McNaugthon struck a shot wide that had Hilario scrabbling across his goal and then sub McCormack wasted a good opportunity. Whittingham also forced Hilario into a save.
Chelsea's fourth, scored by Kalou with five minutes on the clock, was the sweetest of the day. Ferreira whipped a cross over and stooping low to meet it, the substitute guided it high with power just under the crossbar with Marshall grasping at air. It was Kalou's first goal since early December.
Our quarter-final opponents will be drawn at approximately 5.45pm on Sunday.
Chelsea(4-3-2-1): Hilario; Ferreira, Alex, Carvalho, Zhirkov; Ballack, Mikel, Lampard (c); J Cole (Kalou h-t), Sturridge (Malouda 78); Drogba (Borini 88).
Scorers Drogba 1, Ballack 50, Sturridge 68, Kalou 85.
Booked Alex 9,Carvalho 60.
Cardiff(4-4-2): Marshall; McNaughton, Gerrard, Gyepes, Kennedy; Burke (McCormack 78), Rae 74 (Blake 74), Wildig (Taiwo 89), Whittingham; Chopra, Bothroyd (c).
Scorer Chopra 33.
Booked Chopra 19, Gerrard 66.
Watch the game in full on Chelsea TV from 6pm on Sunday.