Willian leads impressive Chelsea to big FA Cup fourth round win vs. Brentford
Chelsea made it through to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-0 win over west London neighbours Brentford.
The home side settled into their pattern early on and it took them just 14 minutes for to open the scoring, when Willian curled his free kick inside the near post and beyond the reach of Daniel Bentley in the Brentford goal. The lead was doubled seven minutes later when Pedro latched on to Michy Batshuayi's through-ball and coolly slotted the ball under the goalkeeper to effectively end the game as a contest.
A spirited period of Brentford pressure at the start of the second half was finally curtailed when substitute Branislav Ivanovic finished off a rapid counter attack. Batshuayi then added some gloss to the scoreline with a late penalty.
On the two previous occasions this season when the members of the back three and goalkeeper have been radically changed, the 2-1 EFL Cup defeat to West Ham and the 4-1 FA Cup win over Peterborough, the defence has hugely suffered as a result. Despite three alterations on Saturday, the cohesion at the back was gratifyingly evident.
There was some inevitable rustiness from some of those that haven't played as frequently, notably Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Batshuayi. Greater sharpness from them might have meant an even wider margin of victory.
Manager rating out of 10
9 -- There were nine changes to the team that beat Hull City 2-0 last weekend yet the transition was seamless. It shows that the entire squad have bought into this methods on the training pitch and are able to reproduce them on match day, whatever the personnel.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Asmir Begovic, 8 -- Had few authentic shots to save but showed great agility and magnificent anticipation to stifle two second half openings for the visitors that looked destined for the back of the net.
DF Kurt Zouma, 7 -- A vastly improved performance after his horror show against Peterborough. Still looks nervous when in possession but grew in confidence as the game wore on and largely dominated his sphere of influence.
DF John Terry, 7 -- Another to have a better day following his red card in the previous round of the competition. Filled in ably for David Luiz with his excellent positioning allowing him to cut out numerous Brentford crosses.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Had a couple of moments when his touch let him down but was fairly solid otherwise. Was withdrawn immediately after the third goal to save him for bigger challenges ahead.
WB Pedro Rodriguez, 8 -- Started at wing-back before switching to his usual attacking berth yet was excellent in both roles. His impeccably timed runs saw him score one and almost add another in the second half and he proved menacing all afternoon.
WB Nathan Ake, 7 -- His first outing since his return from Bournemouth saw his versatility on display with spells at wing-back and centre-back. Looked more comfortable in the back three and showed he will be a valuable asset in this squad.
MF Nathaniel Chalobah, 7 -- A largely neat and tidy performance despite a slight dip at the start of the second half. Made one particularly eye-catching intervention when his inch-perfect sliding tackle prevented Jota Peleteiro from exposing Chelsea on the break.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 -- Looks a class apart in games such as these when he is afforded the time to execute his incisive array of passing. Provided the rhythm to Chelsea's dominant display.
FW Willian, 9 -- If Fabregas pulled the strings, it was the Brazilian who grabbed the game with both hands by embarking on run after run. Carved Brentford open time and again and his sumptuous free kick was the least he deserved for a sterling individual performance.
FW Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 6 -- A frustrating display from the young Englishman who was unable to couple some brilliant movement with anything decisive on the ball. Failed to convert a number of chances and was caught in possession several times.
FW Michy Batshuayi, 6 -- A goal and an assist cannot be ignored but neither can his worrying lack of movement. Linked the play very well and yet was poor whenever he ran off the ball as his teammates surged forward.
WB Branislav Ivanovic, 8 -- A remarkable cameo from the club veteran who both started and scored Chelsea's third. He also delivered two delicious crosses that both deserved to converted.
WB Kenedy, NR -- Never really got up to speed despite plenty of endeavour.
FW Diego Costa, NR -- Perhaps unused to being a substitute, he fluffed a couple of excellent opportunities to add to his season's tally.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.