Fernando Torres struck with a late goal to save Chelsea from further embarrassment in a 2-2 draw against Brentford. With the magic of the FA Cup doubted in recent years, today’s match didn’t disappoint the neutrals. Goals from Oscar, Trotta, Forrester and Torres all contributed to a good old fashioned cup tie.
Rafa Benitez spoke in his pre-match press conference about how stretched the squad is. With Hazard’s farcical suspension and David Luiz’s ankle injury – The Spaniard chose to rest Mata. JT returned in defence with Ivanovic moving to right back. Ryan Bertand and Marko Marin also came in to support Fernando Torres who was picked ahead of Demba Ba. Ross Turnbull replaced the rested Petr Cech.
With a small, bumpy pitch and a low sun, Chelsea struggled in the first half. Brentford pressed high in numbers, not allowing the Chelsea players any time or space. The passing was poor – the lack of time and space meant the ball had to be moved on quickly. The Blues were finding it hard to string more than five passes together. Ramires, usually so composed it tight spaces, Gary Cahill, Ross Turnbull and Marin were all giving the ball away cheaply.
Brentford soon took control of the game, pulling a series of swift passing moves together – particularly down their left hand side with the likes of Logan, Trotta and Forrester all troubling Chelsea’s right flank. They even chanced a few shots on goal – not always troubling Turnbull but still dangerous. And there was more danger for Chelsea when communication broke down between JT and the stand-in keeper. Terry passed the ball back to an oncoming Turnbull. With Donaldson rushing on, Turnbull had no choice but to catch the ball, giving away an indirect-free kick in the box.
Chances were few and far between for Chelsea and Brentford consolidated their dominance shortly before half time. Lampard was caught in possession on the edge of the box. Young Forrester looked to bend one into the corner. Turnbull saved but could only parry out to Trotta who neatly slotted the ball home with a volley.
Benitez took swift action at half-time, replacing Marin with Mata. The German had been poor in the first half – wayward passes and real lack of effort in defence. The change seemed to work. Chelsea were instantly better. There was more urgency, more movement and better passing. The Blues drew level just ten minutes after the break. The ball dropped to Oscar on the edge of the box – he evaded three Brentford players with neat footwork before placing the ball in the top left hand corner with the outside of his right foot.
Chelsea’s dominance grew but couldn’t convert their possession into clear cut chances. Brentford keeper, Moore (who’s name I hadn’t heard in the first half) did well to stop a number of half chances for The Blues. Failure to capitalise on their dominance soon cost Chelsea – this time Ramires was caught in midfield before Donaldson played a through ball to substitute, Adeyemi who knocked the ball passed Turnbull and went down. Despite replays showing no contact was made, the penalty was given. Harry Forrester stepped up to calmly put the ball passed Turnbull with a little over 15 minutes to go.
With ten minutes go, Benitez took of Ivanovic and put on Azpilicueta – a substitution that had no bearing on the game whatsoever. And was met with roars of “You don’t know what you’re doing” aimed at Rafa. It wasn’t long before Demba Ba did make his appearance, only to be placed on the left of midfield. He made his impact just a minute later. Moving in field, Ba challenged for a ball and played in Torres who instinctively curled the ball into the top corner. Chelsea looked for a winner – Lampard went close. And with a few minutes left, Chelsea were left frustrated when they were denied a blatant penalty. Mata’s cross clearly struck the arm of Dean in the box, who was at least five yards away.
Before the match, Chelsea would’ve hated the thought of a replay. But given Brentford’s performance and the 2-1 scoreline with ten minutes to go – they’ll be happy to be still in the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup.