It wasn’t easy, but in the end, the Blues’ class shown through, as Chelsea advance to the last eight of the FA Cup with a 2-0 victory over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Second half goals from Pedro and Diego Costa provided the margin of victory, and Chelsea remain on course for another league and cup double.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte made seven changes to the side that drew 1-1 against Burnley last week, making wholesale changes to his midfield and defence. Perhaps aware of Wolves performance against Liverpool in the last round, he did retain the attacking trident of Costa, Willian, and Eden Hazard.
But despite Chelsea’s firepower in attack, it was the defence that was tested early on. Just one minute into the match, a deep cross from Conor Coady on the right drifted towards the far post of the Chelsea goal, requiring a smart tip over the bar from goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.
Buoyed by that opening exchange, the hosts pressed their attack and could have been 1-0 up after just five minutes when Kurt Zouma failed to clear a cross and the ball landed at the feet of George Saville whose shot thudded off the post.
Chelsea responded in kind through the invention of Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard’s range of vision and passing was on full display as he spotted a brilliant run from Willian, but the Brazilian couldn’t lift the ball over Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme.
Both sides continued their exchanges back and forth with the hosts providing a stern test, with their smart use of the ball and disciplined shape causing the Premier League leaders problems.
Helder Costa, chief tormentor of Liverpool in the last round, gave Chelsea real problems down the right, take advantage of the space left by Pedro’s runs forward and the lack of continuity of Chelsea’s back three.
The Blues would have expected to take the lead just after the hour mark after Willian fed Diego Costa down the right channel. Costa twisted and turned to create space for the shot, but was only able to hit the side netting.
The breakthrough came just moments later. Wolves had done a great job of containing the Chelsea front three, but a long pass was expertly controlled by Costa down the right. Costa checked back inside and spotted Hazard, whose first time pass was laid off to Willian. Pedro, making another trademark run from wing back, found himself free and headed in Willian’s cross to put the Blues ahead.
It’s a lead that they wouldn’t give up. Conte sent on the reinforcements, introducing Cesar Azpilicueta and N’Golo Kante in order to shut down the match.
The hammer blow came in the dying moments when Diego Costa reacted quickest to a loose ball to lash a shot inside the far post to put the result beyond doubt.