Two Alvaro Morata goals have ensured Chelsea’s numbered ball will be in Monday night’s FA Cup fourth-round draw, and have put smiles back on Stamford Bridge faces after recent home stumbles.
A first-time finish by the Spaniard, smashed into the Forest net shortly after half-time, was followed by a headed goal and there was no comeback for the East Midlands side who had benefitted from a missed Blues penalty in the first half. Both Chelsea goals came from crosses by Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Could Chelsea turn ball possession into clear-cut chances, that was one of the main questions of the afternoon following the previous three home games which had yielded a win, a draw and a defeat and just one Blues goal.
Against a Forest side placed seventh in the Championship, who like ourselves were missing a few players through injury, there was no doubt we dominated, and Morata had an early close-range header saved.
But the biggest opportunity of the first half came from the spot, the penalty won by Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Luke Steele, in the Forest goal in place of the absent Costel Pantilimon, saved Cesc Fabregas’s effort.
An injury to Loftus-Cheek before the break meant the early introduction of Eden Hazard, and at the very end of the first half, despite the visitors showing little in their attacking third, we were treated to a couple of moments of strong defensive play by Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu.
The sell-out crowd did not have to wait long after the restart for Morata to open the scoring, after which Steele saved well from Hudson-Odoi who on the hour sent over the cross from which Morata made it 2-0.
The centre-forward had missed from an offside position just before that but the opportunities had been made today and we won by two clear goals for the first time since the Man City match a month ago.
Our proud record at this stage of the FA Cup goes on. We have now successfully negotiated the third round in 21 straight seasons. By the way, the last team to knock us out in Round Three were Man United, when Ruud Gullit’s Chelsea, who had won the trophy the previous year, were defeated at the Bridge. No such fate has befallen us as cup holders this year.
The Callum crosses
Eighteen-year-old Hudson-Odoi played most of the first half on the left wing but Loftus-Cheek’s injury and the introduction of Hazard meant a switch to the right. It might have proved crucial as rather than cutting in from the left and attempting to do damage that way, Hudson-Odoi now focused on finding space outside full-back Saidy Janko and crossing with his right foot. That is how the goals came, one delivery low and to the near post, the other high and to the far stick.
Whether it does prove to be his final Chelsea game, as has been reported, remains to be seen but when Fabregas left the pitch with five minutes to go, to be replaced by N’Golo Kante, there was a tremendous ovation from all sides of Stamford Bridge as a Blues champion waved to the crowd. He did so again after the final whistle, tearfully.
Hudson-Odoi and Ampadu were teenagers selected in a much-changed side. Hudson-Odoi and Loftus-Cheek, either side of Morata, were the forward line with Amapdu in a midfield anchored by Fabregas who was captain today. Christensen was given the chance to partner David Luiz and it was all-change at full-back and in goal.
4 mins – David Zappacosta was the first to test Forest’s stand-in keeper Steele, with a long, low shot that was not held properly.
12 – Zappacosta this time sent a cross over from deep. Morata, inside the six-yard box, reached it first but headed directly at the keeper.
14 – Emerson skimmed the roof of the net with a free-kick.
15 – Talking point! A classic Fabregas pass sent Morata away but he appeared to be tripped by the chasing Claudio Yacob just outside the area. No free-kick given by referee Andrew Madley and unfortunately, no VAR in this game.
30 – Penalty given. Zappacosta continued to be influential. His low centre was deflected the way of Loftus-Cheek whose first touch took the ball past Forest skipper Danny Fox. A leg came out and fouled our England international.
31 – Penalty missed. Fabregas checked his run and went for the bottom corner, but Steele saved.
37 – A thunderous strike by Zappacosta, found by Morata, was beaten out by Steele.
42 – Hazard’s rest was not as long as intended. He was brought on for Loftus-Cheek who had been hobbling with a back problem since an earlier challenge on him.
49 – GOAL! Morata made the right near-post run and finished emphatically with a first-time shot, after Hudson-Odoi made a yard on his marking full-back and whipped over the perfect cross.
55 – From a similar position to the one Morata scored from, Hudson-Odoi nearly netted our second but the keeper saved.
57 – Morata was offside when Hazard’s ball reached him and he scooped it over the unguarded net from a few yards out.
59 - GOAL! Morata was quickly back on target when heading in at the far post. Again Hudson-Odoi was the supplier, with a higher cross from the right.
70 and 76 – Fabregas cleared the bar from distance, but not by much, before Barkley had a long-range shot saved.
The cup games are coming think and fast now, and in three days’ time we travel to Wembley for the opening leg of our Carabao Cup semi-final with Tottenham. Twenty-four hours earlier we discover our next FA Cup opponents.