Chelsea secured their spot in the fifth round of the FA Cup thanks to a 2-1 win over Championship side Hull City at the KCOM Stadium.
The Blues went into the game winless across their past two outings in all competitions and were put under pressure early on by their hosts who looked to test Willy Caballero. But Michy Batshuayi opened the scoring inside the opening 10 minutes to put Chelsea in control.
Fikayo Tomori then doubled the lead just after the hour mark, heading in Ross Barkley free-kick at the far post. Hull managed to pull one back but were not able to get a second with Chelsea ultimately holding on.
A lot of the build up surrounding the game involved Batshuayi and his capabilities of leading the line for Chelsea. The Belgian has not had the greatest of seasons, having to watch from the sidelines as Tammy Abraham enjoys his first campaign as Chelsea’s starting striker, scoring 15 goals in 31 matches. In comparison, Batshuayi had managed seven in 22 appearances heading into the weekend and had been without a goal in his past 13 games.
But the Belgian was going to start for Chelsea with Abraham picking up an injury in the Blues’ 2-2 draw with Arsenal earlier this week after colliding with the advertising hoardings behind the goal late on. Chelsea haven’t looked prolific even when Abraham has been on the pitch but the thought of the English striker being sidelined is a frightening prospect for supporters, and it only increases with Batshuayi as his replacement.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday afternoon, Frank Lampard confirmed Abraham would miss the FA Cup meeting with Hull and was unsure whether the striker would be back in time for next week’s Premier League game against Leicester City. He also admitted Batshuayi needs to start taking the opportunities he is given, starting this weekend.
“This is a chance for him and clearly he certainly has got to take that chance in terms of his all-round game and goals and his overall performance,” he said.
“There have been times this season where he has come on and he has made a difference, and that needs to be consistent. To be fair to Michy his approach and work ethic, I cannot complain about it at all in training.
“I’m sure he will say he hasn’t had that many opportunities that would be normal for a player that’s played as much as him this season. But the reality of it is when you get those opportunities, whether it’s ten minutes coming on to try and affect a game or starts in whatever game they are, you need to try and absolutely make an impact.
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“At times he’s made an impact. At other times not so much. The brutal reality is I suppose Tammy’s had a really good season and his moments have probably not been as much as he would want. But he does have to try and make the impact in every little moment and chance he gets.”
And Batshuayi showed he is capable of filling in for Abraham, in another good cup game. The Belgian barely had a touch of the ball inside the opening five minutes with Chelsea pinned back by an attacking Hull side – his only contribution of note was a misplaced pass.
But just moments later Batshuayi was the man in the right spot to finish Chelsea’s first attack of the game. It was a slightly messy goal as Hull struggled to deal with a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta but Batshuayi showed a calmness to score under pressure, his shot beating George Long via a deflection off Ryan Tafazolli.
18 – Michy Batshuayi has been directly involved in 18 goals in his 18 domestic cup starts (FA Cup and League Cup) for Chelsea and Crystal Palace combined, scoring 15 and assisting three. Underrated? #EmiratesFACup #HULCHE pic.twitter.com/88EAUf4SAF
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 25, 2020
Batshuayi’s sixth goal of the season, and his first since netting in the Carabao Cup fourth round defeat to Manchester United, put Chelsea in control of the game and boosted his confidence. It also continued the Belgian’s impressive record in English cup competitions, netting hits 15th goal in the League Cup and FA Cup for both Chelsea and Crystal Palace – adding three assists too.
Playing with more confidence, Batshuayi showed he can mimic Abraham with his hold up play, managing to keep the ball well in deep areas of the pitch in order to keep Chelsea in possession.
Yes, the gulf between the opponents will be pointed out to reduce any hyperbole over Batshuayi’s return to the scoresheet but he did what was asked of him on Saturday evening.
However, there are still concerns…
Although Batshuayi did hold the ball up well at times, there were also occasions where his passing left a lot to be desired, cutting promising attacks short. The Belgian also didn’t appear to be on the same wavelength as his teammates at times but that could be put down to his lack of playing time, with the Chelsea players used to working with Abraham and his eagerness to make himself available. His role in the game waned as time went on, rarely getting hold of the ball and struggling as an outlet to give Chelsea a break.
Hull 1-2 Chelsea FT:
Shots on target: 2-7
Pass accuracy: 76%-86%
Possession: 35%-65% https://t.co/dFLlxWEHE3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 25, 2020
It wasn’t just Batshuayi though. Once again Chelsea were wasteful in front of goal and gave themselves a tougher game than they should have had. In total, the Blues had 16 shots, hitting the target seven times but apart from their two goals, the efforts were met well by Long between Hull’s sticks.
They also saw five shots blocked, a result of Chelsea often trying to work the ball into the box too much, allowing themselves to be crowded out. If the IT Crowd were being created today, maybe the joke would be about Chelsea always trying to walk the ball into the goal, not Arsenal.
As has been the case in recent games, Chelsea’s wastefulness gave their opponents confidence and invited pressure. Before Tomori got the second, Hull had a bright period and looked more likely to equalise than Chelsea had looked to doubling the lead. Even after Tomori did score, Chelsea allowed Hull into the game and were left fighting until the final whistle to secure their spot in the fifth round when they should have been in the clear.
This is something captain Azpilicueta admitted after the game, candidly telling BT Sport: “Honestly, with the chances we had, we have to control better. We have to improve our game if we want to go far. Tonight’s game we could have handled better.
“It is not the first game that we did not manage well, and at the end we were suffering. We stopped playing and started doing individual actions. If we want to fight for trophies we have to improve.”