Chelsea progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup by beating Championship opposition thanks to a Tammy Abraham hat-trick.
The Blues were fast out the blocks at a freezing Stamford Bridge with Abraham scoring two early goals, the first after a run from Timo Werner, who was in a mobile role today, the second from a Reece James cross.
At that stage we looked set to run away with it but Luton changed their formation from a back-five to a back-four and pulled a goal back on 30 minutes through midfielder Jordan Clark.
By that stage, the London snow that had settled on the pitch before kick-off had gone and although there was pressure on the Luton goal before half-time, we went in at the break with just the 2-1 advantage.
It was a challenge for Chelsea, who despite moving the ball well in the second half, were thankfully for an excellent save from Kepa, redeeming himself for any question marks over him for the Luton goal.
We made our quality at the other end of the pitch count with quarter-of-an-hour remaining when Abraham finished off a slick move to make it 3-1.
The one disappointment from the second half was that Timo Werner did not convert a late penalty.
The draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup was made at the same time as the fourth round so we already know we will be playing away against Barnsley, who knocked out Norwich yesterday with a 1-0 home win. The Yorkshire side are currently 11th in the Championship table. We owe them one as our 1-0 defeat away there in 2008 was the last time we lost to a Championship side in the FA Cup.
The tie will take place 9-11 February.
Frank Lampard went strong with his starting 11 today. Billy Gilmour was the one non-regular youngster given a chance, playing midfield alongside Mason Mount who was named captain for the first time. There were seven changes from the defeat at Leicester with Andreas Christensen in defence for the first time in 2021. With Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic the wide players, Timo Werner played behind Tammy Abraham but frequently popped up on the left.
Two quick goals
Abraham scored his first goal with just 10 minutes played. Before that there had been promising Chelsea attacks. Werner used his pace to get away following a Zouma ball down the flank and hurried the Luton defence into a clearance with his cross. Then Ziyech looked to put Abraham through but the Hatters’ keeper Simon Sluga was out quickly to tackle the Chelsea no.9.
That won a corner from which Zouma, back in the side, showed his aerial prowess but could not send his header on-target.
The first goal owed a lot to the sharpness and awareness of Ziyech and Werner with the Moroccan spotting the German’s planned run and delivering a quick throw-on. Werner reached the byline before the ball came back to Abraham who stroked his shot low across the goalie and into the far side of the goal. Great precision!
Luton complained that there had been two balls in play when Ziyech made his throw, but the goal stood.
Six minutes later it was 2-0 and two goals for Tammy. He was marked when Reece James’ scooped cross from a standing start came in but his height was crucial in beating Tom Lockyer as he looped a header home.
Before the half-hour was up, Pulisic had a shot saved after Werner had dummied a James pass but shortly after Luton pulled a goal back with their first shot on target. Jordan Clark was the scorer, hitting a first-time shot from James Bree’s cross. Kepa got contact on it but could not keep it out.
Settling after setback
Pulisic went close as Chelsea sought to quickly restore our two-goal cushion and James and Mount both sent tempting balls across the face of the Luton goal. Werner, under pressure, volleyed an Emerson cross wide of the near post in added time.
Before the whistle, Kepa saved a Harry Cornick header from a free-kick so the Blues went in at half-time with a 2-1 lead, but it was not the advantage it appeared we would have at this stage with 20 minutes of the game played.
Kepa comes to the rescue before Tammy's killer touch
Chelsea opened Luton up early in the second half, Ziyech picking out Pulisic six yards out but Sluga’s planted foot kept the shot out. The busy Ziyech was then not far away from laying on a chance for Abraham at the far post and when he did find Mount with his pass, today’s skipper smashed the ball over the bar.
Pulisic had a shot deflected wide and it looked odds on that another Chelsea goal was coming, but with an hour played, it was Luton who worked a golden opportunity after a James error. Kepa pulled off a wonderful save from Cornick.
Soon after the Spaniard kept the ball out again after a corner but Luton were offside anyway.
The game was inside the final 20 minutes when Abraham headed wide from a cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi who had just replaced Pulisic but if that was a waste, the striker made no mistake just a couple of minutes later when he completed his three-goal haul.
It was a goal forged in the Chelsea Academy, with Hudson-Odoi and Gilmour exchanging passes at speed and the winger finding Abraham in the right place to slot the ball in from three yards out.
We could have matched the four goals scored in the previous round against Morecambe but when Werner took an 86th-minute penalty that he had won, his recent frustration continued when his effort was saved by Sluga.
Fourth round hurdle cleared again
Chelsea’s pedigree in recent years in the FA Cup is exceptional and with today’s win we progress to the fifth round for the 23rd time in 26 attempts.
The last time we went out at this stage of the competition was the big shock in 2015 when Jose Mourinho’s eventual league champions that season were defeated by League One Bradford City. No such slip up in wintry conditions today.
This second hat-trick of Tammy Abraham’s Chelsea career takes him onto 11 goals for this season, and clear of Olivier Giroud and Timo Werner on nine each as our top scorer this season.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Kepa; James, Christensen, Zouma, Emerson; Gilmour, Mount (c) (Kovacic 84); Ziyech (Havertz 77), Werner, Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 70); Abraham (Giroud 77).
Unused subs Caballero, Azpilicueta, Rudiger, Chilwell, Jorginho.
Scorer Abraham 11, 17, 74,
Luton (5-4-1): Sluga; Bree (LuaLua 61), Lockyer, Rea (Potts, h-t), Bradley (c), Naismith (Moncur 75); Clark, Tunnicliffe (Berry 61), Ruddock-Mpanza, Dewsbury-Hall; Cornick (Collins, 61).
Unused subs Shea, Hylton, Lee, , Nombe.
Scorer Clark 30
Booked Clark 85
Referee David Coote