There were a few questionable moments for Chelsea at the back and Asmir Begovic had to step in to make some saves, but in the end, the London club got their clean sheet and advanced to the last sixteen of the Emirates FA Cup.
Here are the talking points from the game:
#1 Chelsea’s youngsters were given a start under Antonio ConteAntonio Conte played more or less Chelsea’s second string side against Brentford in this FA Cup tie. There were starts handed out to Nathan Ake at left back, Kurt Zouma in central defence, Nathaniel Chalobah in midfield and Ruben-Loftus Cheek on the left flank.
All the Blues youngsters performed admirably in the game. Ake showed his composure in defence at both left-back and then centre-back, after his successful spell at Bournemouth, Zouma made some crucial tackles and clearances in the back-three and demonstrated his power and aerial ability.
Chalobah kept running and linked up well with the Blues midfield and Loftus-Cheek was a constant threat and almost got on the scoresheet after a number of great attempts – one a shot from 25 yards out, which produced a great save from Brentford’s keeper Daniel Bentley and another dinked effort that bounced off the cross-bar.
It was a good outing from Chelsea’s young players who combined well and supported the senior players on the pitch. Despite having a very successful youth side over the last five years, Jose Mourinho preferred to not give the Chelsea youngsters too much game-time while he was at the helm. However, under Conte, the young Blues are showing the faith their manager has in them with good all-round performances.
#2 Willian and Pedro steal the show in the opening exchanges
Willian stood over his free-kick, 27 or so yards out on the right-hand side of the pitch with devilish concentration and as he ran up to hit the ball, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with it. The Brazilian hit the free-kick with pace and precision curling the ball around the wall into the top corner. It was a magnificent strike that put Chelsea 1-0 up in the game and started the party for the Blues.
He was after all Chelsea’s best player last season, and this season, despite the sad demise of his mother, the Brazilian has picked himself up and hit top-form at a crucial stage of the season.
His partner in crime on the other flank, Pedro, has re-ignited his career this season under Conte as well. The winger took a few wayward shots early on but made no mistake after Batshuayi’s through ball found him. The winger made it 2-0 to Chelsea in the first 20 minutes itself, and Brentford had an uphill task from then on.
#3 Brentford showed some fight in the second half
The Championship side were given the hair-dryer treatment by their manager at halftime, and they came out much more aggressive in the second half. They tackled hard and flew into challenges, making a number of fouls – some went un-noticed by the referee, while some were given to Chelsea.
They came back into the game for about 15 minutes after the restart causing a few problems and goal-mouth scrambles but they could not apply the finishing touch and score the vital goal.
Brentford should have scored at least one goal with the pressure they mounted on the Blues defence. However, Chelsea remained solid and then went on to dominate the game.
#4 Fabregas – the pass master
‘Fabregas is magic, he wears a magic hat...’ – the chants rang around Stamford Bridge all through the game. The Spaniard produced a master-class with an array of pinpoint passes. ‘He passes with his left foot, he passes with his right...’ sang the Chelsea fans and Fabregas did exactly that.
Diagonal balls, long balls over the back line, passes out wide into space, threaded passes through the defence and short simple ones to keep the game ticking – he played them all. The Spanish midfielder unlocked the Brentford defence time and time again releasing his team-mates into space.
He built up all Chelsea’s moves and put Loftus-Cheek and Batshuayi through on numerous occasions, but they could not finish. If he could just improve his fitness and his tackling, he would be an unstoppable force in the Chelsea midfield, that is perhaps the only reason why Conte prefers Matic to him.
He showed the Stamford Bridge crowd why he truly is a pass-master in the game even though it was only against Brentford.
#5 Batshuayi scores again when given a start and there was one last hurrah for Branislav Ivanovic
The Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi was handed another start and he did not disappoint. He set up Pedro's goal with a through ball, although it was perhaps intended for Loftus-Cheek and registered an assist.
He almost scored one in the first half but the ball didn’t cross the line. He then scored the final goal of the game from the penalty spot after Branislav Ivanovic was tripped in the box. The 23-year-old Belgian fights hard up front and gets himself into brilliant positions but his finishing is still lacking. However, he does have a lot of time on his side and his stats aren’t too bad either.
Michy Batshuayi in domestic cup competition for Chelsea this season:5 games4 goals2 assistsTaking his chance to impress. pic.twitter.com/wrIYGf3i3i— Squawka Football (@Squawka) 28 January 2017
Speaking of not too bad, an old hero who turned villain only last season – Branislav Ivanovic – got himself on the scoresheet in the game, scoring the third goal and then won the penalty for Batshuayi to convert the fourth.
The old stalwart made some of his trademark, marauding runs forward after coming on. It was indeed a last hurrah for the Serbian defender who could be on his way to Zenit St. Petersberg, as per recent reports.
Ivanovic scored many important goals and defended brilliantly for Chelsea for the last nine seasons. It was only last season that his fitness and pace reduced considerably. He has been a tremendous defender for the Blues over the years and deserves to be recognised and respected for his contribution to the club.
He reminded Chelsea fans of exactly that tonight.