Chelsea secured comfortable progress to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday on Gonzalo Higuain’s debut.
Maurizio Sarri named the striker, who signed on loan from Juventus in midweek, in his starting XI. However, the new arrival had minimal impact as the holders saw off their Championship opponents at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
In the buildup to the game, Callum Hudson-Odoi had reportedly handed in a transfer request amid interest from Bayern Munich, but Sarri’s selection was vindicated as the winger netted a fine second shortly after the hour.
It was Higuain who had the first sight of goal, firing wide on the turn following a cute pass from Mateo Kovacic, before VAR correctly overturned Andre Marriner’s initial decision to award Wednesday a spot-kick. Replays showed Ethan Ampadu had won the ball ahead of Joey Pelupessy.
To make matters worse for the Owls, they soon conceded a penalty as ex-Chelsea midfielder Sam Hutchinson trod on Cesar Azpilicueta, and Willian converted from 12 yards, sending Keiren Westwood the wrong way.
Wednesday came close to an equaliser early in the second period when Adam Reach’s mis-hit cross clipped the outside of the post, but it was a rare moment of optimism for the visitors as Higuain headed a half-chance wide from Ampadu’s delivery.
The second did arrive soon, however, as Andreas Christensen lofted a ball over the top for Hudson-Odoi, who showed superb control before cutting inside left-back Morgan Fox with a classy back-heel and firing beyond Westwood.
Wednesday’s goalkeeper will perhaps feel he could have done better with that effort, but he could do nothing about Willian’s precise finish as the Brazilian curled into the bottom-right corner after exchanging passes with Giroud.
What does it mean? Holders in the hat
Chelsea’s last FA Cup defeat came in the 2017 final, and with Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham already eliminated at this early stage, the Blues will fancy their chances of retaining the trophy.
Hudson-Odoi shows his class
It is not hard to see why Bayern are so keen to bring the teenager to the Bundesliga. He was lively all game, and his marvellous touch, flick and finish was comfortably the highlight of an otherwise low-key affair.
Higuain on the periphery
Barring a couple of half-chances, Chelsea’s new signing was not heavily involved on his debut before he made way for Giroud. With the Blues set to be involved in a tight tussle for Champions League places, Sarri will hope Higuain adapts quickly to his new surroundings.
Chelsea resume league action with a trip to Bournemouth on Wednesday, while new Owls boss Steve Bruce will take charge of his side for the first time next weekend at the Championship’s bottom club, Ipswich Town.
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