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04 October 2023

Chelsea cruise into FA Cup fourth round

Chelsea's Didier Drogba (right) celebrates after midfielder Willian (left) scored the opening goal during the English FA Cup third round match between Chelsea and Watford at Stamford Bridge in London on January 4, 2015. (AFP)


Chelsea showed their superiority to cruise past Championship side Watford with a 3-0 victory on Sunday and book their spot in the FA Cup fourth round.

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had warned that the punishing festive fixture schedule could leave his side vulnerable to a giant-killing, but there was no hint of an upset at Stamford Bridge.

Three goals in 14 second-half minutes from Willian, Loic Remy and Kurt Zouma were enough to see the seven-time winners comfortably through.

Having suffered humiliation at Tottenham Hotspur on their last outing, when they lost 5-3 in the Premier League, this was the perfect riposte by Chelsea, albeit against lower-league opposition.

Chelsea might be vying for glory on four fronts, but Mourinho's starting line-up suggested he was keen on maintaining Chelsea's love affair with this competition.

He had little choice but to take the FA Cup seriously, given Watford's lofty position towards the top of their division.

But perhaps his side also had a point to prove following their New Year's Day mauling at Tottenham.

Despite the home team making eight changes, Gary Cahill - among the survivors from the White Hart Lane nightmare - sounded an early warning, flicking Andre Schurrle's free-kick over the bar after six minutes.

Chelsea threatened again via Schurrle before Didier Drogba brought the best out of Jonathan Bond, the Watford goalkeeper, in the 32nd minute.

Remy's cross was met by the veteran Ivorian striker, but his header was turned aside by Bond.

Watford, who have scored goals for fun in English football's second tier, were quick to venture forward, but barely caused any alarm around Petr Cech's goal.

Daniel Tozser and Troy Deeney fired down the throat of the Chelsea goalkeeper before Odion Ighalo wasted a good chance when he dragged an effort wide on the stroke of half-time.

Mourinho would not have been pleased with what he had seen and he reacted by throwing on top scorer Diego Costa in attack and introducing Willian to inject some life into the Chelsea midfield.

Yet Watford, who had ended the first half on top, began the second period in similar fashion.

The Hertfordshire club were inches away from shocking Stamford Bridge to its foundations in the 55th minute, when Deeney's shot deflected off Filipe Luis's heel and Cech's outstretched foot to safety.

It was a stroke of luck Chelsea needed and they delivered a moment of magic courtesy of Willian to make the breakthrough in the 58th minute.

The Brazilian midfielder was afforded too much room and took advantage by curling home a sublime finish from 25 yards out.

Chelsea needed breathing space and there looked no way back for Watford once Remy had lashed home after a fortunate rebound fell into his path with 70 minutes on the clock.

The floodgates were starting to open and young French defender Zouma made it two goals in as many minutes with a towering header from Cesar Azpilicueta's cross. Watford had no reply.