The Blues have successfully made it through to the fourth round of the FA Cup for a 22nd consecutive season.
First-half goals from England internationals Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ross Barkley were sufficient to ensure smooth progress for a much-change side, with Hudson-Odoi also assisting for the second goal and creating several other chances, most notably for today’s centre-forward Michy Batshuayi, and during the second half for Barkley who hit the post.
There was a contribution from VAR too, with no complaints from Chelsea followers on this occasion as it overturned a first-half penalty decision for the visitors due to an offside call, and then ruled out a second-half goal for the East Midlanders for the same reason.
As well as negotiating the third-round hurdle, our first FA Cup game of the 2020s was an occasion to mark the anniversary of the start of a historic campaign 50 years ago, when Dave Sexton’s Blues made it all the way to Wembley, and then on to Old Trafford for a cup final replay where we won the iconic trophy for the first time.
Today’s Chelsea wore a special retro kit based on the one sported that night, and some of the stars of the 1970s team, plus relatives of some of those who could not be here today, appeared on the pitch at half-time. They must have been happy with what they watched during the 90 minutes.
This game was fourth in the Premier League versus fourth in the Championship, although neither side selected bore much resemblance to the two clubs’ regular league line-ups. Both Chelsea and Forest showed nine changes from the teams which had begun the New Year’s Day games.
One of the players selected for whom it felt this was a good opportunity to shine was Hudson-Odoi, and the 19-year-old could hardly have got off to a better start. He scored the opener in only the sixth minute.
Chelsea had moved the ball quickly across our forward line and when Pedro supplied the pass wide, Hudson-Odoi, playing on the right, spotted the gap and fired the ball between full-back Ribeiro’s legs and inside the near post. Simple but clinical.
Reece James and Hudson-Odoi tested Forest further with well-struck crosses before misfortune prevented the Blues making it 2-0 from a 19th-minute counter-attack. Pedro’s shot hit Batshuayi who was making a run ahead of the Spaniard.
Midway through the first half, Forest were initially given a penalty for a challenge by Fikayo Tomori on Alexander Mighton, a decision that might have been over-turned as being no foul, had the VAR got as far as reviewing that. Instead the penalty was wiped out as the Forest player was spotted as marginally offside when the video reviewed him receiving the ball.
Chelsea embarked again on the quest for a second goal. Batshuayi nearly got on the end of an undefendable cross from James before the goal came from the boot of Ross Barkley, in the right place to tap-in after Forest keeper Jordan Smith had saved but pushed out Hudson-Odoi’s stinging shot.
Mateo Kovacic had been sharp and alert to win the ball originally, and it was Barkley who had sprayed it wide to Hudson-Odoi to make the shooting chance.
Just before half-time, James and Batshauyi linked up again but the striker headed just wide.
Two-nil up at the interval, it had been comfortable, with a ball across the face our goal by Mighten and the ruled-out Forest penalty the only moments of alarm.
Smith reacted well to keep out a James shot as Chelsea knocked on the door in the early part of the second half, and Barkley’s header from a Hudson-Odoi cross hit the post.
Midway through the second half, Forest had the ball in the net but Ryan Yates was marginally offside when he headed in a free-kick. Again the VAR review went Chelsea’s way.
Batshuayi could not control his shot when Hudson-Odoi picked him out in front of goal. Two years ago in a Carabao Cup game against the same opponents in the same stadium, Michy had bagged a hat-trick. This was not his afternoon to the same degree.
Among the second-half substitutions there was a second appearance for Tariq Lamptey, this time in a more advanced role than at Arsenal. He replaced Pedro and nearly got on the end of a move when James squared the ball first-time, but Michael Dawson intervened.
Emerson, making his 50th Chelsea appearance, then scuffed a late shot wide and Hudson-Odoi forced a save with the last kick of the game as the Blues successfully closed out the win
The draw for the fourth round is on Monday from 7.35pm UK time.
Kick-off for today’s game was at one minute past the hour, in common with the slightly delayed start to all this season’s third round games, highlighting the FA’s Heads Up campaign on maintaining mental health. A special video was played on the big screens during the extra minute, featuring Frank Lampard, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Joe Cole.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Caballero; James, Christensen, Tomori, Emerson; Barkley, Jorginho (c), Kovacic (Mount 69); Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi, Pedro (Lamptey 75).
Unused subs Cumming, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Willian, Giroud.
Scorers Hudson-Odoi 6, Barkley 32
Booked James 65
Forest (4-3-3): Smith; Jenkinson, Dawson (c), Figueiredo (Benalouane h-t), Ribeiro; Yates, Carvalho, Semedo (Fornah 69); Adomah, Mighton, Johnson (En-Neyah 81).
Unused subs Shelvey, Sole, Hefele, Gabriel.
Booked Yates 77
Referee Peter Bankes