Willian’s penalty yesterday brought up his half-century of Chelsea goals, and by the end of another successful cup evening at Stamford Bridge he had extended that tally with a brilliant first-time finish.
It was fitting that the Brazilian should mark the landmark occasion with a set-piece strike and a precise finish from distance. For when you think of Willian goals, it is usually long-distance efforts, especially free-kicks, that spring to mind.
Of his first 50 Chelsea goals, a remarkable 22 have been netted from outside the box. Included in that list are his first goal on home soil, against Stoke City, and his maiden FA Cup strike, against Watford in January 2015. As autumn turned to winter later that year, six consecutive goals of his were free-kicks.
Willian has now scored 10 goals in the FA Cup, making him the fourth most prolific player in the competition proper since his first appearance in 2014. The most memorable were his free-kick and penalty against Spurs in the semi-final two years ago, but Brentford, Hull and Manchester City are among the other clubs to have suffered at the hands of the 30-year-old in the world’s oldest cup competition. Sheffield Wednesday can now be added to that list.
‘It was a good game from us, I think we deserved to go through to the next round,’ Willian said after yesterday’s success.
‘We have to continue in the same way. We can't go up and down, up and down. We need to stabilise and carry on.’
Willian offered Gonzalo Higuain the chance to take the penalty on his debut, he revealed, but in the end it was left to the winger to convert his third spot-kick for the Blues.
The second goal stemmed from intricate combination play with Higuain’s replacement Olivier Giroud. Operating with devastating effect in tight spaces has long been a hallmark of Willian’s play, and even with plenty of bodies around him he still picked out the bottom corner.
Since signing for the Blues, Willian has scored more goals year on year, hitting a Chelsea-best 13 in all competitions last season. He has some way to go to beat that this term, having notched seven so far, but with three to his name already in 2019 he has every chance of maintaining that impressive record.