Chelsea weathered a tumultuous night off the pitch and an early onslaught from Luton to come from behind twice and reach the FA Cup quarter-finals with a 3-2 fifth-round win at Kenilworth Road.
Roman Abramovich confirmed his intention to sell Chelsea an hour before kick-off, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the seismic news unsettled Thomas Tuchel’s side, who were behind after 102 seconds so that Reece Burke’s header gave Luton the dream start.
Chelsea settled in as the half progressed and deservedly equalized when Saul Niguez brought home a fine equalizer (27), but the comeback roared Luton as Harry Cornick wrapped up a brilliant team goal to restore the hosts’ lead five minutes before the break.
Tuchel sent on his Chelsea players early for the second half and, with instructions clearly still ringing in their ears, they responded as Timo Werner equalized for the second time (68) before Romelu Lukaku’s 15th goal from the season (78) finally sees the light of day. out of Luton’s fiery challenge and booked a place in the last eight.
Chelsea’s added power and we’ve finally applied enough pressure to subdue the Hatters and secure their passage to the sixth round, where the Blues will have their sights set on domestic cup success of a different kind following the final defeat of the Carabao Cup on Sunday against Liverpool.
Lukaku leads Chelsea ahead of Luton
As kick-off quickly approached at Luton, Abramovich released a statement which signaled the imminent end of his nearly 20-year reign as owner at Stamford Bridge, and off-the-pitch uncertainty permeated the team. Tuchel and on the ground.
- Dan Potts, Peter Kioso, Luke Berry, Carlos Mendes Gomes and Admiral Muskwe returned as Luton made five changes from Saturday’s Championship win over Derby.
- Mason Mount and Antonio Rudiger were the only Chelsea players to keep their places as Thomas Tuchel made nine changes since Sunday’s Carabao Cup final loss to Liverpool.
Chelsea’s makeshift squad looked distracted and rambling from the start, and Luton made them pay almost immediately. Defender Burke headed home under little pressure from a corner where Chelsea’s marking left much to be desired.
Luton goalkeeper Jed Steer then suffered a nasty injury, falling clumsily onto the turf without any contact from anyone else. The Aston Villa loanee was taken out on a stretcher after a long treatment, bringing youngster Harry Isted into the fray.
Saul cut Chelsea level with the Blues’ first tangible attack, galloping to strike home after Mason Mount put Werner on the run. The Spanish midfielder then had a great chance to put Chelsea ahead, but this time couldn’t beat Isted, who stretched a leg to deflect his effort just inches wide.
Saul’s equalizer should have set Chelsea up, but just when the visitors expected to take control, Luton struck again. Cornick ran away from Chelsea cover and coolly passed Kepa Arrizabalaga, who delayed coming off his line just enough to give the Luton striker the angle for the finish.
Luton continued to press but were eventually undone as Chelsea emptied their talented bench. Christian Pulisic and Reece James offered impetus and initiative, and Werner took advantage first as he passed the rushing Isted.
Werner then turned provider again, cutting in the right before drilling a low ball to the face of goal, allowing Lukaku to push home and settle the tie.
Tuchel praises Chelsea’s concentration
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel: “It was difficult circumstances, a huge difference, you come from Wembley, the Carabao Cup final on Sunday, and then we gave the players a well deserved day off. Then you have a day to change your mind. notice in a new challenge.
“We also had a lot of players, so more or less more defensive players, and a completely new set-up and competition. There was of course noise today around the club, so it was not so easy to concentrate, but we did it very well, I think.
“We conceded straight away but had great chances to equalize and then go on. Then we conceded another one, the second half we stepped up and we pushed and were relentless but never impatient and we deserved to win. So all the credit, we did not expect too much from us, and we played a very humble, very serious game.”
Jones proud of Luton effort
Luton boss Nathan Jones: “They are one of the biggest clubs in the world. They are club world champions, Champions League winners and they had to work hard – very, very hard – for their victory. And that’s the thing. more important to us than we tested them.
“They have more quality than us, they have more resources than us, but I’m proud of the group, proud of the club, proud of the reaction from the fans.”
Chelsea travel to Burnley in the Premier League and Luton visit Middlesbrough in the League on Saturday at 3pm.