Chelsea avoided becoming the latest victims of the FA Cup’s spate of giant-killings as the holders eased into the fifth round with a 4-0 win over League One minnows Brentford on Sunday.
Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool are among a host of Premier League clubs to have been embarrassed by lower league opposition this season, but Chelsea overcame a slow start to their fourth round replay to eventually cruise through thanks to second half goals from Juan Mata, Oscar, Frank Lampard and John Terry at Stamford Bridge.
It is still too soon to declare Rafael Benitez’s team back on track after an inconsistent campaign, but at least there was no humiliation here.
Chelsea, who have won the Cup four times in the last six seasons, will travel to Championship side Middlesbrough for their delayed fifth round tie on February 27.
Blues captain Terry, fit after a knee injury, was part of a strong Chelsea line-up that reflected Benitez’s respect for Brentford after the underdogs came within seven minutes of a stunning victory over their west London neighbours in the first meeting last month.
Just as in the 2-2 draw at Griffin Park, Uwe Rosler’s team showed no signs of being overawed by their more illustrious opponents and midfielder Adam Forshaw fizzed an early shot just wide of Petr Cech’s far post.
The Blues were struggling to out of first gear and Branislav Ivanovic was off-target with a looping header from Mata’s corner, then Lampard miscued a good opportunity and when the loose ball ran to Oscar, the Brazilian’s close-range shot was well blocked by Bees defender Harlee Dean.
Chelsea’s struggles under Benitez have made it impossible for the former Liverpool boss to win over his new club’s supporters and they once again showed their disdain for the Spaniard with prolonged chants in support of sacked predecessor Roberto Di Matteo.
Oscar should have lifted the mood when Mata’s pass left him one on one with Brentford goalkeeper Simon Moore, but the midfielder didn’t make a clean connection and held his head in frustration as the shot cannoned away off a post.
Forshaw was threatening again when David Luiz sent him crashing to the turf on the edge of the penalty area, winning a free-kick that infuriated Brentford as Marcello Trotta had rifled his shot past Cech just as the whistle blew.
But there was more urgency about the Blues in the second half and, after Ivanovic’s header forced a good save from Moore, they finally ended Brentford’s resistance in the 54th minute.
For all Chelsea’s desire to play a move expansive style this season, this was a route one goal more reminiscent of Stoke than Barcelona.
Cech lumped a clearance towards Demba Ba and the Senegal striker’s flick fell for Mata, who advanced to the edge of the penalty area before driving a fine strike past Moore.
With the pressure lifted at last, Chelsea were able to play with more freedom and they killed off Brentford in the 68th minute.
Substitute Eden Hazard worked his way into the penalty area and slipped a pass to Ivanovic, whose low cross was met with a backflick from Oscar that deflected into the net off a Brentford defender.
Lampard made it three when he volleyed home from Mata’s cross in the 72nd minute.
It was the England midfielder’s 199th Chelsea goal and made him the club’s all-time leading scorer in the FA Cup.
There was still time for Terry, heading home Oscar’s cross, to complete the rout in the 81st minute.