LONDON: Michy Batshuayi took advantage of a rare start to score twice as Chelsea eased past Newcastle United 3-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to reach the fifth round of the FA Cup.
The Belgian’s goals in the 31st and 44th minutes and a Marcos Alonso free-kick 18 minutes from time were enough for Premier League champions Chelsea to see off Rafael Benitez’s struggling side.
Batshuayi’s first was the result of a neat team move, Pedro’s superb through ball splitting the Newcastle defence and leading to Eden Hazard slipping a pass inside to Alonso.
Spaniard Alonso toed the ball first-time to Batshuayi, who made no mistake with a simple finish from eight yards out.
The Belgian forward scored his and Chelsea’s second goal shortly before half-time when Pedro again initiated an attacking move, his pass releasing Hazard to run at a struggling defence.
Batshuayi, up in support, looked set to run across his man but instead moved away, creating the space for Hazard to play him in before his shot took a huge deflection off Newcastle’s Jamaal Lascelles and looped over goalkeeper Karl Darlow.
Any lingering doubt about the result was settled in the 72nd minute when Alonso whipped a left-footed free-kick over the defensive wall to make it 3-0.
Chelsea are 15 points behind runaway league leaders Manchester City and, following their League Cup semi-final loss to Arsenal, the FA Cup offers Conte’s men their best chance of a domestic trophy this season.
“There were some great performances, especially from this man next to me [Batshuayi] with two great goals,” said Chelsea captain Gary Cahill. “It [the FA Cup] a very important competition for us this year,” the defender added.
On Saturday, Wigan Athletic pulled off the big shock of the fourth round as the team from the third-tier of English football knocked out Premier League West Ham United 2-0 with a famous double from their cult hero Will Grigg.
West Ham were not the only top-flight side to flounder in England’s famous knock-out competition, however, as Liverpool lost 3-2 at Anfield to West Bromwich Albion in a game overshadowed by the theatre surrounding the new VAR technology.
Watford were the other top-tier club to go out of the competition as they lost at fellow Premier League side Southampton 1-0.
On a day of typical FA Cup drama, Tottenham Hotspur were also eight minutes from tumbling out at League Two (fourth-tier) Newport County until a Harry Kane tap-in salvaged a 1-1 draw.
The Premier League’s bottom club Swansea City were also held to a 1-1 draw at League Two Notts County while Huddersfield Town drew 1-1 with Championship (second-tier) visitors Birmingham City.
The Premier League teams to advance were Brighton & Hove Albion, who won at 1-0 Middlesbrough, and Leicester City, who won 5-1 at League One Peterborough.
Coventry City continued their fantastic cup run with a 1-0 victory at MK Dons, while Hull City beat Nottingham Forest 2-1.
Sheffield United beat Preston North End 1-0, and Millwall netted a last-minute equaliser to draw 2-2 against Rochdale.