Chelsea’s set piece woes continued at Stamford Bridge, conceding yet another goal due to poor marking, and this made for nervous tension amongst Chelsea fans until Frank Lampard’s scorching free kick put daylight between the two teams. Ipswich Town fought valiantly, but the gulf in class proved too much in the end, a Ballack brace added to Lampard’s goal, the aberration that was Alex Bruce’s equalising goal finally forgotten.

Felipe Scolari named a very strong side, with just Juliano Belletti coming in from the side that grabbed a spectacular late win at home to Stoke City last weekend, in place of the suspended John Obi Mikel.

Chelsea began the match on top, playing high tempo football with the intention of putting Ipswich Town in their place. Lampard’s sighter went wide early on, before Ballack missed a guilt-edged chance from inside the box. However, the German captain atoned for his error in the perfect fashion, opening the scoring after sixteen minutes.

Typically, Lampard was involved in the creation, playing wide to the marauding Ashley Cole. The left back bombed forward and cut the ball back to the waiting Ballack, who confidently finished from eight yards out. Advantage Chelsea.

Nevertheless, there were always going to be set pieces to worry about and this tie proved no different. Thirty-three minutes had been played when Ipswich grabbed the equaliser.

A free kick was swung into the penalty area, and both Ballack and Carvalho failed to clear. Defender Alex Bruce was waiting at the far post to smash the ball home and level the scores at 1-1, the scoreline remaining until half time. 

The second half began much like the first, with Chelsea on top. Kalou went close, Lampard less so, before Didier Drogba replaced Florent Malouda just before the hour mark. A minute later, Chelsea took the lead, a perfectly placed Ballack free kick giving him his second goal of the day. The midfielder curled the ball exquisitely over the wall and into the top right corner, giving former England goalkeeper Richard Wright no chance.

Felipe Scolari had no doubt been critical of Chelsea backing off after scoring the first, though the same could not be said after the second. The Blues applied further pressure to the Championship side, looking to force the issue and seal their passage into the fifth round.

Kalou and Ballack were both denied by sharp saves from Wright, as Jonathan Stead and Kevin Lisbie (remember them?) were introduced in a bid to bring back the deficit. Ivanovic replaced Carvalho for Chelsea and with ten minutes remaining, Ballack was replaced by the fit-again Deco.

With five minutes remaining, Norris was booked for fouling Drogba, 35 yards out. In the absence of Ballack, Lampard lined up the strike and sent it flying into the top corner. Quite simply, it was miles out, and he smacked it into the top corner!

Chelsea comfortably closed out the match from there on in, and there could be no genuine complaints from Ipswich Town as the Blues cruised to a 3-1 victory, two of the goals being nothing short of outstanding.

The fifth round draw is today, whilst tricky matches against Middlesbrough and Liverpool are ahead, ensuring Felipe Scolari’s week will be busy as he attempts to rectify the set piece shambles that is the Chelsea defence. More of the same in attack though, would be more than welcome.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Carvalho (Ivanovic 70), A Cole; Ballack (Deco 79), Belletti, Lampard (c); Kalou, Anelka, Malouda (Drogba 58).
Manager: Felipe Scolari

Ipswich (4-4-1-1):R Wright; Bruce, McAuley (c), Balkestein, D Wright; Haynes (Lisbie 60), Miller (Quinn 81), Garvan, Norris; Walters (Stead 71); Counago.
Manager: Jim Magilton

Alan Wiley
Attendance: 41,137

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