The team likely to end the 2016/17 season as the Champions of England proved too strong for Brentford in the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round. The Bees headed to Stamford Bridge to take on Premier League leaders Chelsea with high hopes of making it through to the Fifth Round for the first time in more than a decade but those were soon extinguished. Chelsea raced in to a 2-0 lead before 25 minutes had elapsed and they never really looked like relinquishing that advantage. The 4-0 final score might have been a slightly harsh reflection but there is no doubt that Chelsea were worthy winners.
There were stages when it looked as if Brentford might be able to find a way back in to the match. They took the game to their hosts at the start of the second period and had chances to reduce the deficit. But the goal that might have given Chelsea something to think about never came and when the hosts got their third inside the final quarter there was no way back for The Bees.
Chelsea set out their stall from the first whistle. They dominated possession with Cesc Fàbregas running the game in the centre of their midfield. When Brentford did have possession the Premier League leaders swarmed forward. They made it impossible for Brentford to play through midfield and every long ball was repelled. The Bees had almost no answer in the early stages as Chelsea’s athleticism and technical quality enabled them to take control of the game.
Brentford had their backs against the wall but tried to stand firm in the face of the onslaught. Pedro blasted over for Chelsea early on and The Bees had a chance of their own when Harlee Dean met a Josh McEachran corner but he could not direct it towards goal. The goal Chelsea’s early pressure threatened came 14 minutes in. They were awarded a free kick when Pedro collided with Vibe and Willian curled it in to the top corner from 22 yards. Daniel Bentley went full stretch to his left but could do nothing given the power and placement on the shot.
The Bees responded well to the goal and had spells where they had the better of possession, also establishing a position in Chelsea territory, but the home side soon re-established their control. There was a chance for John Terry from a quick, short corner but the Chelsea captain screwed his shot wide. Pedro, however, made no mistake moments later. Willian created the space and Michy Batshuayi played a ball that allowed Pedro to get in behind Yoann Barbet on the Chelsea right, he steered a shot under Bentley to double the lead.
It could have been worse for The Bees as Chelsea pressed on. Batshuayi had a goal ruled out as Pedro was offside and Bentley made a series of saves to keep his team in it. One, from Batshuayi after Terry had nodded a corner down, was made on the goal line as the Brentford goalkeeper just about kept out the scrambled effort. John Egan deflected a Ruben Loftus-Cheek shot wide and Bentley tipped over a rasping drive from the same man soon after.
Nathan Ake turned a low corner wide at the near post and Bentley tipped a Fàbregas shot around the post as Chelsea threatened to completely end the game by half time. Bentley also then saved from Loftus-Cheek and Batshuayi miss-hit a volley on the edge of the penalty area. But as half time approached Brentford grew in confidence. Maxime Colin started to push forward more on the right and McEachran was able to influence the game from midfield. Lasse Vibe met a McEachran corner with a flicked header than was saved on the scramble by Asmir Begovic and his follow-up effort deflected over.
A powerful effort from Yoann Barbet was also saved by Begovic as Brentford ended the half well. And The Bees continued to hold the upper hand in the early stages of the second period. They snapped in to challenges and forced mistakes from a previously steady Chelsea, giving the indication they could find a way back in to the game. Vibe had a golden chance when he got on to a Ryan Woods cross and away from Terry but he did not shoot first time and was challenged as he tried to round Begovic. Barbet then fired across the six-yard-box after fine interplay on the left with Nico Yennaris.
The volume was rising at Stamford Bridge as Brentford pressed and it was starting to develop in to an entertaining cup tie. Chelsea were also keen to attack and score the goal that would make the game safe so it was end-to-end at times. Willian fired over after cutting in off the dead ball line before Bentley saved from Batshuayi. Willian then burst through midfield and set up Loftus-Cheek but his chip clipped the crossbar before Pedro fired over.
Yennaris had a great chance to halve the deficit when Woods fed a ball in to him but Begovic was smartly off his line to deny the Brentford man and moments later the game was effectively over. Branislav Ivanovic started and finished a move which summed up the quality in the Chelsea ranks. He won the ball in the right back area and quickly fed Pedro, the Spanish attacker ran 50 yards before slipping a ball back to Ivanovic and he smashed it low past Bentley to end the game as a contest.
Brentford had brought on Scott Hogan and Jota as they chased a goal but chances were starting to dry up, mainly thanks to the introduction of Ivanovic as a more defensive-minded right wing back. A Loftus-Cheek shot deflected wide for the hosts before Pedro was unable to convert a Batshuayi cross. Batshuayi fired across the face of goal and Kurt Zouma blasted wide as Chelsea exploited the space Brentford were leaving as they chased the game.
And when Barbet brought Ivanovic down for a penalty inside the last ten minutes, they had their fourth. Batshuayi took responsibility from the spot and sent Bentley the wrong way with his penalty. Chelsea had already introduced Diego Costs and the free-scoring striker went looking for a goal of his own. He failed to convert an Ivanovic cross before Loftus-Cheek was crowded out. And Costa then missed a header from another Ivanovic cross.
Jota could have ended Brentford’s afternoon on a high with a free kick from the right which dipped late but landed on top of the net. That was as close as Brentford came to a goal and Chelsea had a clean sheet to go with their win leaving Brentford to concentrate on the rest of their Sky Bet Championship season.
Chelsea: Begovic: Zouma, Terry, Azpilicueta (sub Kenedy 70 mins); Pedro (sub Costa 75 mins), Chalobah, Fàbregas, Ake; Willian (sub Ivanovic 64 mins), Batshuayi, Loftus-Cheek
Subs (not used): Eduardo, Hazard, Moses, Matic
Bookings: Chalobah (89 mins)
Brentford: Bentley; Egan, Dean, Bjelland; Colin, Yennaris, Woods, McEachran (sub Kerschbaumer 77 mins), Barbet; Sawyers (sub Hogan 64 mins); Vibe (sub Jota 64 mins)
Subs (not used): Bonham, Clarke, Field, Hofmann
Bookings: Colin (55 mins) (sixth of season)