Chelsea had to work hard to overcome in-form Derby County on Sunday, but they secured their place in the fourth round thanks to second half goals from John Obi Mikel and Oscar. The Blues now face a home tie against Stoke in the next round and will feel well-placed to progress to the fifth round.
This match was typical of Chelsea’s season thus far. They played well in spells and created plenty of half chances but didn’t quite create enough to dominate and weren’t accurate enough with their shooting. They deservedly won the game and it wasn’t vintage Chelsea but, as seems to be the way this season, it can very much be filed under “job done”.
The Rams had dropped just two points in nine league games until losing at home to Wigan just four days prior to this encounter. Despite that loss, confidence and morale were high and Steve McClaren’s men would have fancied their chances given the Blues have hardly been unbeatable on the road.
The home side kept things level for more than an hour which would have bolstered their optimism – and that of the crowd – but ultimately the superior class and ability of the away side became the telling factor.
In-form Willian crossed for Mikel to head in the opener on 66 minutes before Oscar bent the second in after 71 minutes to put the tie to bed. Overall it was a deserved win but it will worry Blues boss Jose Mourinho that only three of the Pensioners’ 17 shots were on target and the continued inefficiency of his forwards has to be a concern.
Mourinho sent out a strong side, despite making six changes from the XI that beat Southampton. With Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres coming off the bench, there were no major differences to the personnel one would expect to see in a big game, although Petr Cech was rested with Mark Schwarzer stepping in between the posts. The Aussie shot-stopper was rarely tested, his most difficult challenge keeping out a late strike from Chris Martin.
The visitors, well aware of the form and abilities of the home side, were on their mettle and could have won more comfortably, Ramires (who was booked for diving by the same ref who awarded him that penalty against West Brom at the Bridge!) hit the bar and had another decent shot from distance, Oscar went close with a free kick and Torres saw an effort saved by Lee Grant.
Derby tried to get into the game but they too, despite also fielding a strong side, were unable to get many of their 16 attempts on target and all in all it was a very satisfactory day for Mourinho and his men.
A home tie in the next round and a further building of momentum, coupled with the exit from the competition of several premier League sides, most notably Man United, Spurs and Newcastle, made for a good weekend all round as far as Chelsea are concerned. Up next: a trip to Hull at the weekend.