The visitors unsurprisingly made 7 changes to the starting eleven Mourinho produced at Old Trafford. The changes were not as youthful as many had expected with 36 year old Didier Drogba once again leading the line and the experienced Oscar and Cahill making up a relatively familiar spine to the team. Shrewsbury set up with a 3-5-2/5-3-2 shape featuring Demetriou and Grimmer as the two full-backs.
The Blues enjoyed large spells of possession throughout the opening exchanges with the hosts focussing on keeping their shape and pressing Chelsea’s midfield five as high up the pitch as possible. For the majority of the half, the Shrews defence made The Blues look toothless. The most impressive feature of Shrewsbury’s defensive work was the ability to catch Chelsea’s offensive players in offside positions on such a regular basis. Most teams know that Drogba does not posess the pace he used to have, but not even the acceleration of Salah could allay the regularity in which he and Schurrle were caught beyond the last man during the first period. They were all equally culpable and most of Chelsea’s attacking play resulted in aimless through balls that Knight-Percival and Grandison mopped up with ease.
The Shrews grew into the match and actually had the better of the few opportunities. Collins had Cech in a panic with a fierce drive that stung the palms and as the half grew on Demetriou saw more of the ball in advanced areas down the left. The set piece count began to rise and on one occasion Zouma headed point blank into the arms of Drogba. Half hearted appeals from the Town players were waved away, allowing the big Ivorian to spring board what turned into a succession of counter attacks as the tempo began to rise. Salah raced onto a glorious through ball, picked out Schurrle at the back post and the German inexplicably headed square to the unopposed Shrewsbury centre back to begin a Shrewsbury counter.
Chelsea went up a gear after the break and posed much more of a threat in the final third. Good pressing from Salah enabled Oscar to cut in from the left and a decent block gave Chelsea one of the many corners they were picking up at the beginning of the second half. It seemed a matter of time and the gradually improving Salah controlled a Schurrle cross and teed up the onrushing Drogba to bury his first opportunity of the half. The visitors had warranted their lead and it took a tidy team move to breach the League Two side’s defence.
Post goal, Chelsea’s focus returned to possession and Shrewsbury began to play like they needed a goal. As before, they began to get in down the flanks and force subsequent corners from blocked crosses. It always seemed like a set piece would be the best source of a goal and a deep corner was won by Akpa-Akpro, it ricochetted of Mikel’s calf towards Mangan who provided in instant finish with his first touch of the ball after replacing Collins just minutes before. It was no more than Shrewsbury deserved and extra time looked on the cards.
Mourinho’s next course of action was to replace Salah with Willian and Mikel with Matic. Instantly Chelsea went up another gear and Willian’s first contribution was to fizz and in-swinging cross in between Grandison and the goalkeeper Leutwiler. The crossed was poised for Drogba from 5 yards but the centre half got a touch and the ball crept inside the back post, giving Leutwiler no chance. An inspired substitution by Mellon had been trumped by his opposite number Mourinho.
Possession tactics returned and the biggest compliment Chelsea could pay was that as the match petered out, Drogba was taking the ball into the corner in an attempt to run down the clock.