By Israel Igiri- Sports Editor
It was a great night for the Blues as they prepare for their UEFA Champions League clash with the Catalans with a thumping 4-0 victory over Hull City in the fifth round of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge on Friday night.
Antonio Conte who had an eye on Tuesday’s last 16 tie against Ernesto Valverde’s men, rested key players including Eden Hazard, Cesar Azpilicueta, Thibaut Courtois and N’Golo Kante in order to have them fresh and fit for the encounter.
Although Antonio Conte’s men have been underwhelming of late, losing three of their last five games in all competitions, there was no sign of any further shock with two-goal Willian, Olivier Giroud and Pedro Rodriguez inspiring a convincing victory in the warm-up game for their Champions League tie.
In a game dominated by the West London side, it took Willian less than two minutes to open the scoring after he beautifully tore apart a depleted Hull side. His dazzling move around the opposition players was completed a well curled left foot finish which gave David Marshall no chance.
Pedro got the second in the 27th minute after Cesc Fabregas dictated the tempo of the game and was given all the time and space in midfield, allowing him to give a brilliant pass over Hull’s defence to his fellow Spaniard, who neatly and coolly put the ball past Marshall.
Willian added a third, his second on the night in the 32nd minute finding the bottom-right corner outside the 18-yard box following a good work by January signing, Giroud. Scoring a long-range effort was certainly a beautiful way for the Brazilian to score his 10th goal of the season in all competitions.
As half-time approached, there was still time for Giroud to open his goal scoring account for his new club as he stabbed home from close range after a strong run up the left flank by the impressive debutant Emerson Palmiere in the 42nd minute.
Shortly after the restart, Hull City had a chance to get a consolation goal or see if they could stage a comeback, with Fabregas tripping Harry Wilson inside the box, but Willy Caballero produced a fine save to keep Meyler’s powerful spot-kick out, making it his fifth save from eight penalty kicks he has faced in all competitions (excluding shootouts).
Although Hull City improved after the break as they created good goal-scoring chances, notably Jackson Irvine’s save by Caballero just before the hour mark, Chelsea still eased to victory, leaving Championship strugglers Hull to focus on avoiding back-to-back relegations.
The win sees Chelsea through to the quarter-finals of the competition for the 10th time in the last 11 years. But more importantly, it restores the confidence of the team and puts them in good shape as they prepare to do battle against an informed Barcelona side who have lost just one game across all competitions this season. They just could not have asked for a better way of getting set for the visit of Lionel Messi and co.