Chelsea haven’t had it all their way in the Premier League in recent weeks, taking four points from a possible nine. This weekend Frank Lampard and his side switch their attention to the FA Cup as they take a trip to championship side Hull City at the KCOM Stadium. In the previous round, Chelsea ran out comfortable winners against Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge, and Lampard is hoping for more of the same on Saturday evening.
For the Blues, coming off the back of a 2-2 draw against Arsenal in midweek, Lampard made eight changes from that side. It is a strong XI with Pedro, Michy Batshuayi and Callum Hudson-Odoi leading the line. Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma partnered in the centre of defence which saw them establish an exceptional partnership earlier on in the season. Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta returns at right back following Reece James recent injury troubles and England midfield duo Ross Barkley and Mason Mount accompany Matteo Kovacic in midfield.
It’s a must win game at the KCOM Stadium. Lampard will know a replay won’t be ideal following the fixture pile up in the Premier League and a Champions League tie against Bayern Munich coming up. Lampard has great history in the FA Cup as a player and will see this competition as a stepping stone to get his side back to winning ways.
Chelsea have progressed 49 out of 51 FA Cup ties against lower league opposition. A strong statistic going into this match and early on it seemed that this would swiftly become 50 as Chelsea struck early. Michy Batshuayi’s deflected effort goes past the Hull City goalkeeper with that early goal looking to have settled the nerves for the away side as Chelsea looked full of confidence. Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Matteo Kovacic the brightest players in the first half. Kovacic begun the match a lot deeper, more in the Jorginho role and was the best player on the pitch. His ability to play forward passes between the lines led to two other clear cut chances in the first half with Mount and Barkley running through on goal on separate occasions. A story of Chelsea’s season continues, dominating the match and not being able to capitalise with their opportunities as Barkley and Mount’s efforts comfortably saved by the Hull goalkeeper. The half time whistle blew and Chelsea were 1-0 up at the break. A dominant half by Lampard and his team and should be in front by more than one. He will be hoping for more of the same in the second-half, but with more goals so that this tie doesn’t get forced into a replay.
The second half was underway and it wasn’t Chelsea who started off with a bang. The home side seemed to have had a telling off by their manager. Hull City came out the blocks fast and applied a lot of pressure in the first 15 minutes of the second-half. It seemed they had a better plan on how to stop Chelsea playing out from the back and it looked to be working. The difference comparing the Premier League and Championship was the quality in the final third. Their most promising attack came from Jarred Bowen who drove through the middle of the pitch, but his shot didn’t test Willy Caballero.
A tough spell this was for Chelsea in the match, but the two centre-backs with Tomori and Zouma were acknowledging the physical presence that Hull offered from set-pieces. Following the sustained pressure in the second-half, in an instant Chelsea make it 2-0. Barkley’s lofted free kick was firmly met by Tomori at the back post with a header. An important goal for Lampard’s side and it really showed, considering recent matches where they’ve failed to kill off teams.
That goal silenced the home crowd and Lampard started to make changes. Willian and Billy Gilmour were introduced, replacing Mount and Hudson-Odoi. Gilmour was making his first appearance in the FA Cup in a Chelsea shirt, a chance to show Lampard what he has to offer. Pedro’s inclusion was a strange one prior to kick off and as ever, he had a Pedro sort of match. This season he has one goal to his name and could have doubled or even tripled that tally with a couple of good chances coming his way in the second-half. As the game looked to be won for Chelsea, the game sprung back into life. Hull City were back in it following a deflected free-kick hitting Kovacic in the wall and sending the ball in the other corner of the goal past Caballero. It was poor from the Croatian midfielder as you are taught never to turn like that when you’re part of a wall.
The Full time whistle blew and it was a much needed win for Chelsea. They made hard work of this tie. Going 2 up and cruising, one goal by the Championship side changed the complexion in the final 10 minutes. There was a stage where Chelsea looked like they weren’t going to see this one out as the home side were hoping for a late equaliser. The score finished 2-1 to the Premier League side and Lampard accomplished his tasks for today, to restore confidence and escape a replay. Chelsea now await their next opponents in Monday’s 5th round draw.