Michy Batshuayi nabbed a brace as Chelsea cruised into the 5th Round of the FA Cup at the expense of a poor Newcastle United at Stamford Bridge this afternoon.
Marcos Alonso lit up a dull encounter with an exquisite free-kick to put the shine on an otherwise regulation win that sees the Blues enter the hat for the next round when it is made at around 7.20pm tomorrow evening.
There is a fair chance that Batshuayi will be loaned out before the Wednesday transfer deadline - but only if the Blues land one of their striking options - Edin Dzeko remains the favourite to end up at SW6.
Ross Barkley got some vital minutes as he acclimatises to life in a Chelsea shirt, while young Callum Hudson-Odoi made his debut - coming off the bench for a 10-minute cameo.
The early exchanges were devoid class but full of aggression - Jonjo Shelvey in particular showing the required strength. But he also showed a deft touch on 26 minutes, forcing Willy Caballero in to a smart near post save, tipping the goal-bound effort away for a corner.
Chelsea’s first real effort on goal, resulted in the deadlock being broken. A smart breakaway saw Eden Hazard tap the ball to in-running Marcos Alonso, who prodded the ball across the Newcastle penalty area for an unmarked Michy Batshuayi to tuck the ball home to put the home side 1-0 up.
It was the Belgium’s ninth goal of the season from 25 appearances this season.
Antonio Rudiger showed he has two excellent feet when playing the ball. A curler from his left boot, inched past Karl Darlow’’s right post on 41 minutes.
Careless defensive work by Andreas Christensen saw Newcastle almost score but Caballero spared the centre-back’s blushes with an excellent save.
Thankfully The Blues went straight up the other end and notched number two.
Again Hazard cut through the visitors’ rearguard. He passed the ball to Batshuay. The striker let fly with a right-footer. The ball bounced off Jamal Lascelles’s body and looped over Darlow and dropped into the back of the net.
Caballero thwarted Shelvey deep in to added time, tipping the daisy-cutter away for a corner.
Newcastle had two half-chances cleared before the half-time whistle.
There were no changes from either side at the break.
Pedro was unlucky with his effort on 51 minutes - his defect, left-footer curler from the edge of the Geordies’ penalty area, inched over Darlow’ s crossbar.
A feature of Davide Zappacosta’s game is his excellent crossing. And on 56 minutes a deep cross from the left was met beautifully fully on the volley by Alonso. Darlow produced an excellent save to parry the ball away.
On 72 minutes, Alonso produced what is becoming a trademark effort, sending in the perfect free-kick from 25 yards, high and wide over the Newcastle wall, and then seeing the ball dip perfectly behind then despairing dive from Darlow. It was the Spanish wing-back’s seventh goal of the season.
Ross Barkley entered the fray immediately afterwards, replacing Hazard in the process.
N’Golo Kante was replaced by Ethan Ampadu on 77 minutes.
Darlow then produced two saves to stop the Blues going further ahead - Pedro and Zappacosta the unlucky men to see the goalkeeper in fine form.
Callum Hudson-Odoi, made his senior Chelsea debut on 82 minutes - replacing ineffectual Pedro.
The Blues face Bournemouth, at home on Wednesday night s Premier League football resumes for the current champions.
Teams: Chelsea, Caballero, Rudiger, Alonso, Drinkwater, Kante, Hazard, Pedro, Zappacosta, Batshuayi, Cahill, Christensen
Subs: Eduardo, Fabregas, Barkley, Moses, Musonda, Ampadu, Hudson-Odoi
Newcastle: Darlow, Clark, Lascelles, Shelvey, Gayle, Ritchie, Hayden, Mbemba, Manquillo, Saivet, Haidara
Subs: Woodman, Dummett, Murphy, Dionne, Sanmartin, Tedlin, Atsu
Referee: Kevin Friend