FA Cup: Clinical Chelsea



CHELSEA 2 (Jon Obi Mikel 66, Oscar 71)

The third round of the FA Cup is a minefield for hubristic Premier League teams, but Chelsea navigated it with ease.

Steve McClaren's Derby County worked hard, demonstrated a high level of technical proficiency and proved themselves no pushovers, but there was never a time when they seriously looked like overturning Jose Mourinho's team.

It took Chelsea time to break Derby down, but when the first goal came, via the unlikely source of Jon Obi Mikel, the floodgates opened.

The Nigerian midfielder edged Willian's powerful free-second half and Chelsea never looked back.

Another from Oscar, five minutes later, sealed the result.

Chelsea dominated possession before the break, but were largely limited to long-range efforts that skidded wide, over, or in the case of Ramires on the stroke of half-time, off the post.

Their best chance of the period came when Samuel Eto'o was released oneon- one with the goalkeeper.

Five years ago, it would have been a foregone conclusion that the Cameroonian would score.

Not any more.

Little wonder that he's only scored three goals in the league this season.

By the break, Chelsea still hadn't put a single shot on target.

Derby were impressive, cannily combining defensive resilience and discipline with the technical wherewithal to break quick with sharp passing combinations.

In the middle, the flaxen-haired youngster Will Hughes gave a display that suggested he may yet be worthy of the hype.

Certainly a target for Liverpool, and probably some other Premier League clubs too, Hughes is comfortable on either foot and is inventive enough to find space even when he is closely markedIn front of him, bulky forward Chris Martin toiled against Gary Cahill , busting a gut to hold the ball up for his more waif-like colleagues.

Unfortunately for Derby, they were just as unsuccessful as their visitors in the creation of chances.

What did differentiate the two clubs was the calibre of substitutes on the bench.

Ten minutes into the second half, Jose Mourinho sent on Eden Hazard.

McClaren, quite obviously, wasn't able to deploy such sophisticated reinforcements.

Derby were pushed further back and were forced to turn to means that were less than fair to combat their tormentors.

Giving away free-kick after free -kick against a team of Chelsea's class was always going to have a predictable ending and it came in the 65th minute, via the head of Mikel.

Derby's resistance was broken.

Their only respite came from the referee Andre Marriner, memorably conned by Ramires earlier this season against West Bromwich Albion.

Marriner felt moved to issue an apology to then-manager Steve Clarke after he fell for the Brazilians' dive last November.

This time, he was having none of it, and rightly so.

When Ramires crashed to earth in the penalty area, his only reward was a yellow card.

For the second time this year, Chelsea were punished for simulation. On balance, given the smoothness with which the Blues made their way to the fourth round, you suspect that Mourinho will see that as the cost of doing business.

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