Premier League leaders Chelsea saw off League One Peterborough United with a routine 4-1 win, despite being reduced to 10 men with captain John Terry sent off.
The Blues were cruising 3-0 thanks to goals by Pedro, Batshuayi and Willian, but when Terry brought down Angol as the last man, and when Nichols pulled one back soon after, it looked like the comeback was on.
Thankfully Pedro restored Chelsea’s three-goal advantage, and passageway into the FA Cup fourth round, where the next round opponents will be revealed tomorrow evening.
After a losing start to 2017, and a starting XI that had been tried-and-trusted for the huge majority of the season, Antonio Conte freshened his side up with nine changes that included the re-emergence of the old guard Terry and Ivanovic, alongside the youth of Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah and the returning Zouma.
Gary Cahill, a stalwart in Conte’s sides, was still present and nearly justified the call when he deftly clipped the ball goalward from Fabregas’ corner. At the next Chelsea corner, it was Terry who fired ferociously at the Peterborough goalkeeper, but McGee was standing firm.
But Peterborough were no walk-over and should have had the game’s first goal. Maddison sent in a delicious cross from the right-wing and Angol should have scored from point-blank range, but fired straight at Begovic who spread himself big.
Chelsea did eventually take the lead in the 18th minute with a neat team goal. Both Fabregas and Chalobah had respectable attempts, but the ball fell kindly to Pedro, who dummied his man and curled into the top corner.
It should have been two for the Spaniard at Chelsea’s next noteworthy attack. Loftus-Cheek stung the hands of McGee and fed Pedro who looked to have a more presentable opportunity rather than the Englishman try again. Instead Pedro fluffed his lines, doing all the hard work before hitting the bar from five yards out. It was harder to miss than score.
Batshuayi has not had much of a look-in this season with Costa justifiably preferred but the Belgian had to take his opportunities when presented to him and he did have his moment to shine with the game’s next goal. Ivanovic crossed to Loftus-Cheek who laid the ball for Batshuayi to plant home with little difficulty.
The Blues continued where they left off in the second-half, but this time it was Willian getting in on the act. The Brazilian cut in from the left and curled a fantastic shot past McGee for an excellent third.
Whilst a Bradford-esque humiliation was never on the cards, the jitters started to flow when Terry was given his marching orders by Kevin Friend. The 36-year-old was slow to read Angol’s train of thought when charging straight in at goal and flung himself hopefully at the ball. Instead Terry caught the man and Friend turned foe.
Nichols pulled one back after Chelsea were caught at the back, but Pedro scored his second of the game, despite being played as the game’s left-wing back. The Spaniard’s shot was a near carbon-copy of Willian’s goal and sent Chelsea through to the FA Cup fourth round.
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Man of the Match
PEDRO: The Spaniard has not had the more effective of times in London but has really come to life this season, with quick feet and a sharp eye for a pass. The former Barcelona man showed all the skill learnt from his time in Spain with two goals (and an assist), and should have had his hat-trick had he not missed his sitter from five yards. This all came despite being played as left wing-back today, so the 29-year-old should be justifiably proud. 7/10
Conte was satisfied with his fringe players: “I am pleased, when you change nine players it is never easy to play a good game and to be a team. Today we showed we were a team. I’m pleased for those who have played less as they have showed me good form.”
McCann was not too downbeat: “I thought we were excellent. I thought we had two or three really good chances. The biggest difference is how clinical they are.”