Stamford Bridge has seen 14 goals scored so far this week, 10 of them by Chelsea. Coming off the 6-0 slaughtering of Manchester City, Avram Grant’s much changed side staged a thrilling comeback from 3-2 down with five minutes to go, to beat Leicester City 4-3, courtesy of a brilliant Andriy Shevchenko goal and a hat trick from Frank Lampard, the last goal being a stoppage time header to send Chelsea through to the last eight.
Avram Grant made many changes to the side that smashed City on the weekend, Carlo Cudicini, Tal Ben-Haim, Steve Sidwell, Scott Sinclair, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Claudio Pizarro and Andriy Shevchenko all called into the starting lineup. For Leicester, they were without the cup-tied Collins John, so Matty Fryatt and the much maligned Carl Cort were up front, in defence were former Bolton centre back Bruno N’Gotty and Australian defender Patrick Kisnorbo.
It was Leicester City’s other defender in their three man defence that gave them the lead on five minutes. A free kick was taken short to Matty Fryatt, who managed to find space to cross past Sidwell, and Gary McAuley, Leicester’s captain, was on hand to plant a header past Cudicini from six yards out.
Within fifteen minutes of the visitor’s opener, Chelsea were level, and it was the man of the match from the weekend, Frank Lampard, who equalised. Belletti getting well forward on the right, crossed deep to Scott Sinclair, who did well to nod the ball back into the box. Shevchenko was tempted to lash at a volley, but steaming in behind him was Lampard who convincingly tucked the ball into the bottom corner. There was plenty more to come…
Chelsea nearly took the lead five minutes later, when Shevchenko intercepted a wayward back pass after Fulop had raced from his goal. However with the Leicester keeper stranded, Shevchenko couldn’t steer his rushed shot on target.
On 29 minutes, Lampard pounced again to give Chelsea the lead. Ferreira steaming forward unleashed a left footed shot that was blocked; his header on the rebound played down to Sinclair. His left footed cross wasn’t cleared effectively, and Lampard was Johnny-on-the-spot, to plant a sidefooted volley past Fulop.
Before half time, Ben-Haim was booked for a foul on Fryatt, before referee Phil Dowd brought an entertaining opening stanza to a close, with the Blues up 2-1.
The second half started on a sour note for Chelsea after the in form Ferreira went down with an injury. After lengthy treatment our Portuguese fullback was stretchered off; Florent Malouda taking his place at left back.
Fulop- having a good evening- was on top of his game to deny Pizarro and Sinclair within quick succession, before Fryatt was replaced by DJ Campbell. Within seven minutes of his introduction, he’d scored the equaliser. A long ball into the box saw Cudicini hesitate, and Campbell found himself unmarked to loop a header over the stranded goalkeeper. Questionable defending from Chelsea was enough to allow Leicester back into the game. Five minutes later, the Blues were behind! Sheehan’s free kick from the edge of the box swung across the face of goal, and Carl Cort was free at the back post to tap in. Suddenly, the Championship side were 3-2 up, and Chelsea had all the work to do.
With ten minutes remaining, Grant rolled the dice, replacing Ben-Haim with Essien, and Sinclair with Salomon Kalou. However, it was down to one of the starting XI to make it 3-3, and it was a beauty of a leveller from Andriy Shevchenko. After Essien and Pizarro exchanged neat passes heading towards goal, the former picked out Shevchenko on the edge of the box. With a neat turn to make space, the record signing lashed an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net, and kept Chelsea in the tie. Late, but not the latest of drama.
That was kept until stoppage time, when Chelsea finally put the tie to bed. A hectic moment of play saw Fulop save a goal bound shot, only for Pizarro to reach the rebound. The Peruvian’s cross hit the cross bar and with Fulop stranded, Lampard headed towards goal from a few yards out, where Fulop suddenly appeared to push the ball away. Lampard claimed the goal, and in the midst of the appeal, the loose ball fell to Shevchenko, who drilled a rasping shot at goal that eventually went in, via a massive deflection off Juliano Belletti, of all people. Chelsea celebrated a Belletti goal, but eventually the officials decided that Lampard’s header had actually crossed the line, to complete a hat trick for Chelsea’s captain for the day.
Chelsea entertained again in a wonderful display of knockout, English cup football. Avram Grant is quickly moulding a side in his style, and with the support of Steve Clarke and Henk Ten Cate, is on his way to taking Chelsea back to where we belong. The top of English football, and the cup kings.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini; Belletti, Alex, Ben-Haim (Essien 79), Ferreira (Malouda 51); Wright-Phillips, Sidwell, Lampard (c), Sinclair ( Kalou 79); Pizarro, Shevchenko.
Leicester (3-5-2): Fulop; McAuley (c), N’Gotty, Kisnorbo; Stearman, Newton (Porter 59 [Maybury 79]), Chambers, Kenton, Sheehan; Cort, Fryatt (Campbell 61).
Referee Phil Dowd