Well that was fun. After the nerve racking affair against one of the most dangerous teams in Europe and in advance of three enormous games against fantastic sides, the FA Cup quarterfinal seemed to be a contest we were all overlooking a bit. While hoping for a big result, I'm sure most of us would have gladly forgiven Roberto Di Matteo for looking beyond Leicester City and focusing on the Premier League race for fourth and the upcoming Champions League quarterfinal. While Di Matteo was forced into changing the central defensive pairing due to injury, he also wisely rested a few of the older members of our squad who played 120+ minutes midweek. It was still a strong lineup though, and one that should be able to see off Leicester City without too much issue.
As the game got underway, the gulf in class was pretty easy to see. Chelsea were pretty visibly dominating the possession, and it didn't take long for the chances to begin coming. 3 minutes in Juan Mata was set up by a Fernando Torres cross, but it was deflected out for a corner. Mata was again denied by a goal line clearance after a tricky run and cross by Daniel Sturridge. Chelsea wouldn't be much longer without a goal though, as they'd be awarded a corner in the 12th minute that Gary Cahill would head into the back of the net. That was the first goal of Cahill's Chelsea career, and he'd celebrate by sending out a message of support for former teammate Fabrice Muamba. All in all, it was about the perfect way for Chelsea to open the scoring.
We wouldn't have to wait long to double our advantage. Five minutes later Chelsea broke off of a turnover, playing the ball into space on the right hand side for unstoppable scorer Fernando Torres to run onto. Not wanting to hog the headlines tomorrow (too bad, it's going to happen anyway), Torres selflessly played a great pass to the feet of Salomon Kalou for the Ivorian to easily slot into the corner. Seventeen minutes in, Chelsea looked to be in the clear.
The Blues would continue to apply the pressure throughout the first half, but some good goalkeeping genetics bestowed upon Kasper Schmeichel managed to hold the Blues to a two goal advantage. The front four of Torres, Sturridge, Kalou, and Mata looked especially dangerous, especially since Leicester decided not to go into damage control and pressed the attack every time they managed to gain possession of the ball.
As the second half got underway, Chelsea withdrew Juan Mata and replaced him with the much maligned Florent Malouda. Chelsea would continue to dominate the possession and it looked just a matter of time before they'd find the net again. At the 65 minute mark Michael Essien would be on to replace Salomon Kalou, and Chelsea appeared content to sit back and counter a bit as they shifted into a more defensive formation.
Three minutes later, the unthinkable would happen. Fernando Torres scored. That's right, the most expensive purchase in the history of the Premier League ended his scoring drought at only 1154 minutes of action. While hardly a thing of beauty, it still looks good on the scoresheet. Danny Sturridge played a great ball to release Raul Meireles, and Raul then calmly laid the ball at the feet of the out of form Spaniard. Despite scuffing the ball somewhat, the end result was finally there. Three goals for Chelsea, and the proverbial duck had finally been broken.
To Leicester's credit, they refused to roll over and die at that point. They continued to press very hard, and ten minutes later Jermaine Beckford became the FA Cup's leading scorer as he found the back of the net. It was now 3-1, and the game was looking like it could have a bit of a nervy finish. Roberto Di Matteo responded by replacing Branislav Ivanovic with David Luiz, and while I hate to see center back pairings broken up mid-game it was very good to see Luiz showing no ill effects from the midweek affair.
Eight minutes later, the red hot Fernando Torres would find the back of the net again. Raul Meireles fired a corner to the near post, and Torres made an excellent run to the space. He flicked the ball on net with his head, and the ball found it's way neatly into the far corner. In fairness, that was some really poor goalkeeping as Torres never should have had that angle to score form, but I guess some luck is finally starting to go Fernando's way. Hopefully it continues for a bit, we could certainly use it.
Leicester would respond almost immediately with a long strike from distance. Ben Marshall would open his Leicester account with what was easily the goal of the game, but with only stoppage time remaining it probably didn't even cause the Blues to bat an eyelash.
The Blues looked likely to score again on the counter, and the response would come only seconds later. Fernando Torres broke into the box form the left, and with the ball on his right foot it looked as if he was going to have a real shot at burying his hat trick. He instead chose to roll the ball across the box to the unmarked Meireles who easily buried the ball in the top of the net. Two goals and tow assists for Torres, and it was a goal and two assists for Raul. Not bad, not bad at all.
The semifinal draw now awaits Chelsea, and our chances of silverware this season are starting to look pretty decent. The draw is scheduled to get underway in about 15 minutes, I'll make sure to have a post up as soon as we know our opponent (or the replay to watch to determine it). Well done Blues, let's keep this up against City on Wednesday.