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Aston Villa 1-3 Chelsea: Blues batter Villans as Madueke and Enzo shine



(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Chelsea are into the fifth round of the FA Cup after comprehensively dismissing Aston Villa 3-1 on Wednesday evening.

Mauricio Pochettino and his men came into the replay beleaguered and under serious scrutiny after shipping eight goals in their past two games. Yet under the bright lights of Villa Park the Kings of the King’s Road ate the Lions alive, playing off the front foot from minute one and playing with an arrogance and energy lesser spotted in the royal blue ranks in recent times.

It was indeed a fairly frenetic and end-to-end start. The Pensioners’ defence – so leaky in recent weeks – looked nervy and was already scrambling to clear a header back into the area from Youri Tielemans.

The first proper sight of goal however fell the way of Cole Palmer. Good work and a pass in from Noni Madueke carved out an opening, but the outstretched foot of the former Manchester City man could not generate the power nor precision required to trouble Emiliano Martinez between the sticks for Villa.

There felt an early goal to be had though, and cometh the hour, cometh Conor Gallagher. Staring a move from midfield, he slipped in Nicolas Jackson who was deployed on the wing for the evening. The Senegalese squared for Madueke, who showed great presence of mind to lay it off for the swashbuckling Gallagher to curl a sublime strike into the roof of the net.

(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

It was almost deja vu against a Midlands outfit for the Blues thereafter. After notching the opener and then giving away the lead within mere minutes against Wolves at the weekend, it required an alert Djordje Petrovic to deny the indomitable Ollie Watkins an almost instantaneous reply – that coming after some desperate defending to get bodies behind a Leon Bailey attempt.

Pochettino’s side dug in for a few minutes, seemingly boxing clever and launching some rapid attacks on the counter to the soundtrack of the visiting fans mocking their own record away from home. A foray forward from Malo Gusto eventually came to nothing, but Madueke was unlucky to jink his way into the area and splurge a cross-cum-shot wide of the target.

Those two were combining for fun on the right flank, and it was via that avenue that the west Londoners doubled their advantage in minute 21. Madueke waded through the midfield before sending Gusto on his way. The Frenchman whipped a most delightful ball into the box where Jackson was waiting to pounce – and pounce he did with a glancing header that left World Cup winner Martinez clutching at straws.

Chelsea were playing with a real swagger and purpose, and the Villains looked at sixes and sevens as they tried to cope or put a semblance of positive play together. The hosts had about all of a five minute breather before the danger arose thick and fast once again – captain Ben Chilwell sending one wide of the upright from range before Palmer sent an absolute rocket goalwards, stinging the palms of Martinez.

Madueke and Gusto were tearing the Claret and Blue to shreds with their dynamism, and the latter had to be hacked down by the churlish brute Diego Carlos on a venture forward to be stopped in his tracks. The ageing Brazilian went into the referees’ book for his efforts.

(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

An error from Chilwell on the stroke of half-time allowed John McGinn a free go from distance, but the tenacious Scot sent it high, wide and not so handsome. That brought the curtain down on the first-half and left Unai Emery with a lot to ponder in order to have a chance at having a good evening and a chance of progressing further in the cup.

Any hope of the hosts rebounding after the restart were savagely extinguished by way of a quite unbelievable free kick from all of thirty yards from Enzo Fernandez. The Argentine had been putting on a clinic up until that point, but his 54th minute strike past compatriot Martinez left the home fans stunned into exasperated silence and the travelling spectators in joyous pandemonium.

It felt like a message sent from Fernandez in the course of his celebration, after his agent rubbished rumours of a potential exit. He saw yellow for taking off his shirt in the process, but he could hardly be blamed. Villa looked lost without cause and started to turn to deep, searching balls into the Chelsea area. Carlos looped a header harmlessly wide.

Approaching the 65 minute mark, the ball broke nicely for McGinn on the edge of the area. His shot went wide but Moises Caicedo clattered him in his attempts to get across. The home side protested for a foul but the referee was having none of it. Nor was he having any of Petrovic’s pedestrian attitude towards getting the game back underway thereafter, with the big Serb getting a ticking off.

(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

McGinn would try his luck from range again five minutes later but again found a warm body in its path. This time Axel Disasi was the one putting his body on the line to snuff out any prospect of an unlikely comeback.

The West Midland outfit continued to probe in case of any late Chelsea nerves. Watkins stopped Petrovic clearing his lines which led to some jitters, and the newly introduced Moussa Diaby tried his luck with a speculative effort. But speculative was the order of the day going into the final 15 minutes, with Raheem Sterling introduced in place of the majorly impressive Madueke.

Villa’s best opportunity of the game came moments after his introduction. Alex Moreno was found at the back post but he could only guide his header onto the roof of the goal, to the relief of Petrovic. The goalkeeper went into the book for timewasting thereafter, perhaps as he took the time to regain his composure. At the other end, Martinez stopped a Palmer shot that seemed like it was going wide.

Blues’ supporters seemed sure they were all but in the next round of the cup, serenading the ground with a rendition of ‘we all hate Leeds’ in anticipation of the opponents that lie in wait on February 28. Not even a possible injury to Benoit Badiashile and a late consolation from Diaby which found its way in off the post was enough to dampen spirits.