Chelsea haven't been particularly impressive of late, so a home tie against a League One side wasn't exactly the type of game that fans would chalk up as an easy win anymore. Victor Moses, David Luiz, and John Terry were back in the starting lineup for the Blues, as the trio were all back from injury/international duty to add to the depth of the squad.
The game got off to a slow start, with the Blues dominating possession but doing very little with the ball. Victor Moses brushed off a foul and burst down the right side of the box, cutting a ball back into the path of Frank Lampard. He'd uncharacteristically muff his attempt on goal though, and when Oscar tried a follow up, the Brentford defense had managed to recover and block the second attempt. It should have been 1-0 Blues, but some poor finishing that has become typical of late had the Blues still level with the Bees.
The next big chance came for Brentford. Adam Forshaw took the ball about 35 yards from goal and drove hard at the center of the Chelsea defense. Neither John Terry or Gary Cahill did anything to shut down the space around Forshaw, and he'd fire a hard shot that drifted just right of the goal. Petr Cech appeared to have the attempt covered anyway, but it was a worrying sign that he was given the freedom to shoot in the first place.
Chelsea did produce a quality chance following a foul on Victor Moses, as the ensuing Juan Mata delivery was headed just wide by Branislav Ivanovic. I'm not sure if Ivanovic's header was an attempt at the far post or if it was aimed at Demba Ba, but it missed both potential targets and drifted harmlessly wide of the goal.
The next big chance fell to the feet of Oscar, who was set free on the right side of the box by a wonderful Juan Mata ball. Oscar would manage to clip the ball just beyond the reach of the keeper, but his attempt would strike the woodwork and end up going out for a goal kick. Brentford were a bit fortunate that Chelsea's finishing was poor, but they'd end up feeling hard done by just moments later.
On a rare Brentford foray into the Chelsea end, David Luiz would make a rash foul on Forshaw at the edge of the 18-yard box. While it was a clear foul and was called almost immediately, the ball fell to a Brentford player with a wide open look at the goal. He'd bury the easy chance, but the referee foolishly decided not to play the advantage and waived off the game's opening goal. The ensuing free kick went straight into the Chelsea wall, and it was scoreless at the break.
The second half got underway with no changes to either side, and the first ten minutes looked about the same as most of the first half. Chelsea had loads of the ball, but they really didn't do much with that possession to threaten the Brentford goal. That all changed when Juan Mata struck an excellent ball from about 25 yards out after being given far too much space in which to shoot, and the Brentford approach had to change when faced with a one-goal deficit.
The next two Chelsea goals were largely the result of keeping things simple when Brentford couldn't simply pack the box any longer. For both goals, Chelsea attacked down the flank with Demba Ba driving toward the post. Ba pulled the defense with him, and a Chelsea player simply drifted into the newfound space to create a very easy shot on goal.
The Chelsea second had Branislav Ivanovic finding Oscar drifting in behind, with the Brazilian backheeling the ball into the Brentford net from about 8 yards away. The third was set up by Juan Mata picking out Frank Lampard, who buried goal number 199 of his Chelsea career.
The Blues added one more as Oscar crossed the ball beautifully onto the head of John Terry, and the Chelsea captain drove his header into the ground and under the arms of the Brentford keeper. That would do it for the scoring, with the Blues being a bit flattered by the 4-0 scoreline.
One major question I'd ask is where exactly was John Obi Mikel today? I think most of us expected him to start, and the fact that he was not even included on the bench made me believe that he was either sick or injured. Rafa addressed this after the game with the following:
Benitez: 'We had all the players available apart from Romeu, which is really good. The medical department is doing a great job.' #CFC— Chelsea FC (@chelseafc) February 17, 2013
So Mikel was fit enough to take part, but Rafa simply chose not to include him in the matchday squad. I'm not going to make much out of his absence from a single game, but I certainly hope this was a one-time exclusion as opposed to Rafa feeling he'd be better off without him.
The win today assures that we'll have another FA Cup game, a trip to Middlesbrough on February 27. We really need to avoid a draw in that one, as the fixture list is already very crowded as is with the Europa League. Josh McEachran will not be available to play for Boro in that tie, so at least we can't break him with a silly foul.