A much-changed Chelsea side saw off Brentford 4-0 to progress to the FA Cup Fifth Round with ease.
Goals by Willian and Pedro set the tone inside the first 20 minutes, whilst Ivanovic and a Batshuayi penalty wrapped things up in the closing 20 minutes.
In the process was a chance for Conte to rest nine first-team regulars and blood the likes of Chalobah, Loftus-Cheek and the returning Ake, who simply had too much quality for the second-division side.
It means the Blues are into the competition’s Fifth Round for the 20th time in 24 years, where the opponents will be drawn on Monday evening.
The last time these two sides met, Chelsea needed a replay to beat the Bees in the 2012/13 iteration of the competition, with today’s visitors not beating the hosts since 1939, and it did not look like this record was to be broken after just 14 minutes on the clock.
Pedro was blocked off by the Brentford defence and Michael Oliver signalled a free-kick from a promising position 20 yards out. Willian took a quick two-step run up before arrowing it perfectly into the Brentford goal past Bentley, to record his seventh goal of the season.
Seven minutes later and it was 2-0.
A beautiful counter-attack by Willian and then Batshuayi saw the Belgian try to feed Loftus-Cheek who was running in on goal. An astray pass to the Englishman turned into the perfect pass to the man running on the overlap, Pedro, who took the ball in his stride, cut back on his left foot and poked it between Bentley’s legs.
The Spaniard has now scored eight goals after just 24 appearances this season, matching the total number of goals he scored for all of last season (40 games).
The Blues were keen to seal the deal early, and Loftus-Cheek was enjoying his advanced left-wing role, firing a shot via a ricochet which forced Bentley into a good save.
Moments later, a corner by Fabregas saw Ake go just wide, whilst another set-piece opportunity later saw Terry climb highest, and when the ball fell kindly to Batshuayi, the Brentford defence somehow managed to clear the ball away from the goal, with the goal-line technology system in use to show the ball was scrambled away before it crossed the line.
The Blues then had the ball in the net twice in quick succession: firstly Fabregas found Pedro who just went a fraction too early, even if his square ball was tapped in by Batshuayi, and moments later it was a near-identical moment, with Pedro again not in-sync with Chalobah’s through-ball despite Batshuayi again supplying the end product.
Fabregas’ daisy-cutter was tipped away by Bentley as Chelsea were firing from all cylinders, including a pop at goal by Loftus-Cheek, but the youngster lacked conviction.
The second half brought about a resurgence in Brentford spirit, albeit short-lived. Two real opportunities to score were spurned, firstly when the Brentford attack got ahead of Zouma and Terry but could not outsmart Begovic, before a dangerous cross send the Chelsea defence into panic.
Willian was keen to get on the scoresheet from open play and cut in from the left in search of the angle to find his goal, but greedily blazed it wide with many colleagues in better positions.
Michael Oliver was clearly keen to let the game flow as much as possible, allowing as much advantage as possible, and it nearly worked in Chelsea’s favour when Willian skipped nearly four punishable tackles before feeding Loftus-Cheek, who sadly who only hit the top of the crossbar with his deft lob.
Woods then turned Terry and Azpilicueta but failed to beat Begovic, but the real opportunities continued to be at the other end. Ivanovic exchanged one-twos firstly with Zouma and then with Pedro before continuing his run and firing in Chelsea’s third.
The Serbian, who had only just come on for arguably one of his last Chelsea appearances, was then the provider of his side’s fourth, winning the penalty in the 81st minute. Batshuayi, for all his huffing and puffing and good movement, failed to find the goal and so all eyes were on him the the Belgian did not disappoint. It means Batshuayi has been involved in six goals in three starts at Stamford Bridge for Chelsea, and seals a comfortable day for Conte’s men.
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Man of the Match
PEDRO: Michy Batshuayi deserves credit for leading the line professionally after an undoubtedly frustrating start to his Chelsea career trying to displace Costa, and many of Chelsea’s youngsters deserve applause for their role in this disciplined display, but the creative engine needs to be there and somehow this season it is Pedro. With Hazard benched and Willian also potent, Pedro has risen to another level and is surely one of the first names on the team-sheet for Conte now. 8/10
Conte was pleased to progress in this competition: “When you win 4-0 it’s a good result, and when you score many goals and you don’t concede. I must be pleased because when you change nine players you can see all the players, all the squad are totally involved in our idea of football, our project. That’s very important. I’m very happy.”
Smith was noble in defeat: “It was always going to be tough but I didn’t want to come away from here without us asking a question. The fans were brilliant… it was a local derby and they wanted to see us in the FA Cup having a go. We did that in the second-half, not so much in the first-half.”