Chelsea mauled Ipswich Town 7-0 at Stamford Bridge to begin their defence of the FA Cup. The third round tie was never expected to pose many problems for the Blues, but a team that had won just three times in thirteen games and never by a margin of more than one isn't really in the business of declaring anything an 'easy' win. Yet from the beginning, that's what they got. A host of first team players were rested for the occasion - Ashley Cole was nowhere to be seen and the trio of Florent Malouda, Didier Drogba, and Michael Essien were reserved for the substitutes' bench. In their place was the youth movement (and Salomon Kalou). Patrick van Aanholt started at left back, 17 year-old Josh McEachran was deployed in the holding role alongside Ramires, and Daniel Sturridge, fresh off five goals in a midweek reserve game, was rewarded with a place in the attack.
The Blues dominated the match from the beginning, putting massive pressure on the Ipswich goal despite not really testing Marton Fulop in the early stages. The ball spent most of its life in the Ipswich half, only breaking out on rare occasions for the visitors to break, and they threatened to score just once when Petr Cech was called into action to deal with a vicious 20-yard effort from Jason Scotland. Other than that, it was all Chelsea, as the defence and midfield combined to shut down the much-hyped Conor Wickham and the rest of the visitors' attack.
The breakthrough came half an hour in after Nicolas Anelka was given time and space to shoot. His low drive was nicked by Fulop, but was still bobbling and rolling into the net before Salomon Kalou nipped in to make sure from all of two inches - a cheeky little goal that Kalou will get credit for. Just seconds later, Chelsea had the ball in the net again, this time after brilliant improvisation from Daniel Sturridge, who backheeled a Jose Bosingwa cross past a bemused Fulop. The Hungarian keeper had been on the end of a 7-2 hammering the last time he'd had the misfortune to play at Stamford Bridge, and things weren't going any better this time around.
Chelsea kept pushing forwards, at one point sending John Terry out on a run to the left wing. The captain was fouled by his Ipswich counterpart - David Norris saw yellow for the challenge - and Chelsea converted the free kick into the third goal thanks to an unlucky deflection off right-back Carlos Edwards under serious pressure by Branislav Ivanovic. Chelsea had by now scored more goals than Ipswich had mounted serious attacks, and they weren't happy with just the three. By the time the interval had rolled around the Blues had made no less than thirteen attempts on the Ipswich goal. A huge win was on the cards if Chelsea chose to pursue it.
Two minutes after the restart Anelka came from deep to play a one-two with Kalou, receiving the ball six yards from goal with only Fulop to beat - an easy finish for the striker to take his tally on the season to eleven. Chelsea goals had been coming in pairs, and Sturridge netted his second shortly thereafter with a stunning right footed curler after a Lampard pass found him in space. It was a brilliant finish, especially from his weaker side. At 5-0 the game was over; Ipswich hopes of coming out of the gates flying in the second half coming to less than naught. Gael Kakuta was introduced for Kalou, and Jeffrey Bruma also made his way into the game after van Aanholt picked up a hamstring problem in the 70th minute. The young left-back's injury was a shame as he'd been very good all game, ghosting past players on the flank without any apparent effort and causing panic throughout the Ipswich back line.
There was still time for another pair of goals, each of them from Frank Lampard (who provided two assist as well as doubling his season scoring tally). The England international missed a free kick before making up for it by slamming home a long range effort following a partially-cleared corner and then receiving a pass from Ivanovic for a tap-in. Ivanovic had been set free by Josh McEachran, who once again demonstrated sublime passing ability and dictated the game in the middle. Chelsea wouldn't score again, but they came close several times. Anelka might have had more and both Ramires and Kakuta will consider themselves unlucky not to have opened their Chelsea accounts, but when the full-time whistle came nobody would have been two disappointed with seven, especially after the team had only managed eleven over the previous dozen matches.
The defeat was the largest ever inflicted on Ipswich in cup play, and Chelsea's second biggest margin of victory in the FA Cup (behind a 9-1 win in 1907). The Blues managed 18 shots on target, according to Opta, more than any other team in the past six years. The level of the opposition needs to be taken into account - Ipswich are 19th in the Championship, after all - but teams can only beat what's been put in front of them and instead of a close game Chelsea simply put rudderless Ipswich to the sword.
Everton await in the fourth round, an unpleasant draw, but the simple truth is that this game could not have gone any better. Chelsea were back to their best, at least for today.