By Joshua Hayward
After a below-par first half performance, Mikel opened the scoring with a fine header. The goal seemed to spur Chelsea into life as Derby had to endure unrelenting pressure in the final stages – Oscar putting the game to bed with little less than 20 minutes remaining.
Despite the wealth of talent at Mourinho’s disposal, his Chelsea side struggled to break down the stubborn Derby defence and were, for the most part, forced into efforts from distance.
Cameroonian striker Eto’o – who has played on the biggest stages in world football – was making his FA Cup debut and should have had his side ahead after 20 minutes. Mikel’s clever reverse ball put him through on goal down the left, but instead of taking on the shot with his weaker foot, he opted to cut inside and was tackled in front of goal.
The best chance of the opening half came in injury time as Ramiresgathered the ball on the right side of the penalty area, cutting inside to send a bobbling left-footed effort onto the base of the far post.
The visitors were much improved during the second half and, after a frustrating 20 minutes, broke the deadlock as Mikel rose highest in the penalty area to meet Willian’s wicked cross, heading home from six yards.
Six minutes later and the tie was over as Oscar linked with Eden Hazard on the edge of the area to shoot on goal. The dipping effort baffled keeper Lee Grant, who could only parry the ball into his own net.
31’ – FIRST SHOT: Cracking effort from Ramires. It’s the first effort of the day that has the goalkeeper worried. The Brazilian picks up the ball 30 yards from goal and smashes a right-footed effort marginally wide of the post.
38’ – ANOTHER CHANCE FOR THE BLUES: Patient build-up play from Chelsea results in Oscar hugging the left touchline before darting inside and flashing a well-struck shot wide of Grant’s far post. The keeper looked confident that it wasn’t on target, but the Chelsea man certainly caught it well.
39’ – CHANCE FOR DERBY: Eustace dispossesses Ramires on the halfway line and surges forward. Martin runs out wide to drag Cahill away, creating space for Eustace to shoot. He does so but the effort loops straight into Schwarzer’s arms.
45+’1 – POST: In the final minute of this first period, Chelsea go closest. Ramires picks up the ball on the right side of the penalty area and shimmies inside to send a left-footed effort on to the foot of the far post.
65’ – GOAL: Mikel scores on his 300th appearance. Willian’s devilish set-piece from the left is met by the towering Mikel who headers past Grant from six yards.
71’ – GOAL: Chelsea grab their second of the game, but the keeper really should do better. Hazard and Oscar link on the right of the Derby penalty area before the latter lashes an effort on goal. It’s pretty central to Grant, though the keeper dives to his right and beats the ball into the back of his net.
86’ – DERBY GO CLOSE: Great effort from Martin. Sammon does ever so well on the edge of the Chelsea box, wriggling away from a number of challenges to play in Martin down the left. With no options in the box, the striker opts to shoot from a tight angle and forces Schwarzer into a smart stop.
John Obi Mikel made his 300th appearance in a Chelsea shirt.
It was the seventh FA Cup meeting between the two sides. Chelsea now edge Derby with three wins to the Rams’ two.
Chelsea have now scored in their last 31 FA Cup ties.
TALKING POINT – Can Chelsea do the treble? The Blues may have been frustrated for large parts of the game, but, in the end, they proved to have too much quality for the stubborn Rams. Two points off league leaders Arsenal in the Premier League and with their European exploits looking strong, expect Chelsea to be fighting on all three fronts come the end of the season.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Oscar, Chelsea – The Brazilian was at the heart of everything Chelsea did today. Playing a free role, he linked up the midfield with Chelsea’s attack and caused Steve McLaren’s side trouble all afternoon. And though the keeper should have done better with his goal, it was no more than the Brazilian deserved.
Derby County: Grant 5, Wisdom 7, Buxton 6, Keane 6, Forsyth 6, Eustace , Hughes 7, Hendrick 6, Dawkins 6, Ward 7, Martin 7
SUBS: Sammon 5, Bennett 6, Bailey n/a
Chelsea: Schwarzer 6; Azpilicueta 6, Cahill 7, Luiz 6, Cole 7; Essien 6, Mikel 8; Ramires 7, Oscar 9, Willian 7; Eto’o 6
SUBS: Baker n/a, Hazard 6 Torres 6