Chelsea ended a turbulent day with victory as they battled twice from behind to overcome Luton Town and advance to the FA Cup quarter-finals, with Romelu Lukaku claiming the winner in an entertaining match at Kenilworth Road.
Just an hour before kick-off, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich confirmed his intention to sell the club, and just 102 seconds after the referee signaled the start of the game, Kepa Arrizabalega picked up the ball out of his net as Reece Burke’s excellent header gave the top flight championship a shock lead.
It was the last thing a side still reeling from losing Sunday’s Carabao Cup final to Liverpool in a penalty shoot-out was needed.
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However, the Blues equalized with their first real chance of the evening, Saul Niguez netting a fine first-time shot into the corner of the net for his first FA Cup goal.
Luton assistant goalkeeper Harry Isted, who replaced the injured Jed Steer at the start, made a number of saves to keep the sides level, and just when it looked like Chelsea were in full control, they were caught by a sucker shot when Harry Cornick came out behind the visitors’ high line and finished with aplomb, as Luton led at half-time.
The pendulum swung when Timo Werner equalized Chelsea again in the 67th minute, rushing past Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s ball, controlling beautifully and stabbing home.
It had been a frustrating night for Lukaku, but the Belgium international appeared with the winner when he bet with a run at the near post and headed home from Werner’s teasing cross.
Chelsea’s relief was evident at the final whistle as they passed a grueling test and they can now look forward to Thursday night’s draw.
Image credit: Getty Images
TALKING POINT – Blues recover from slow start after Abrahmovic’s extraordinary statement
Much of the pre-match preparation focused not on a great FA Cup fifth round, but on Abramovich’s extraordinary statement, which was posted on the club’s website just an hour before. kick off. Has this had an effect on the players? Judging by their performance in the first half, it is. After just 102 seconds they had conceded – the first goal they allowed all season – and before half-time their defense was breached again.
Credit goes to Thomas Tuchel, who presumably had a stern word with his players at half-time, made the necessary changes, tightened up the defense and kept faith in Werner and Lukaku, who had both endured a frustrating night until the final stages.
With so much going on behind the scenes at the club, Chelsea could easily have felt sorry for themselves, but they dug deep and got their reward.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
Deployed in central defence, the versatile Loftus-Cheek recovered from a slow start to produce an encouraging performance. He performed well in the second half and his passing away from the defense sparked a number of attacks, one of which resulted in Chelsea’s second goal.
Luton: Steer N/A, Kioso 5, Burke 5, Lockyer 5, Potts 6, Bell 6, Berry 6, Osho 5, Mendes 5, Muskwe 5, Cornick 6..subs: Isted 7, Hylton N/A, Snodgrass N/A, Campbell 5, Jerome 5.
Chelsea: Kepa 6, Hudson-Odoi 6, Rudiger 6, Sarr 5, Loftus-Cheek 7*, Jorginho 6, Saul 6, Mount 6, Lukaku 7, Werner 7. substitutes: James N/A, Pulisic 5, Vale 5.
2′ – GOAL! LUTON 1-0 CHELSEA (REECE BURKE): What a start from the hosts! Burke arrives on delivery from Berry’s corner before Sarr and peeks into the corner of the net past the helpless Kepa!
27′ – GOAL! LUTON 1-1 CHELSEA (SAUL NIGUEZ): Luton concedes the ball cheaply in midfield and they are punished! Werner takes a heavy touch but the challenge takes the ball into the path of Saul, who runs over the ball and loops a first shot into the back of the net from 18 yards out.
67′ – GOAL! LUTON 2-2 CHELSEA (TIMO WERNER): Werner – and Chelsea – needed it! Loftus-Cheek’s raked ball over the top powers the German international’s run, he times his run to perfection and controls beautifully before stabbing the ball past Isted.
78′ – GOAL! LUTON 2-3 CHELSEA (ROMELU LUKAKU): It’s a much-needed goal for Chelsea as the visitors complete the turnaround! It’s a great cross from Werner to the near post and this time Lukaku plays and he gets his reward with a goal, taking him past the goalkeeper. Could this be the winner?
- Reece Burke’s header for Luton after 102 seconds is the fastest goal Chelsea have conceded in all competitions this season.
- Chelsea have conceded more than one goal in the first half of a match for only the third time this season, having previously done so against Zenit (December 2021) and Liverpool (January this year).
- Harry Cornick scored his first-ever goal against a top opponent, while his tally of nine goals in all competitions this season is his highest in a single campaign.
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