Hull City 1 v Chelsea 2
Chelsea just about managed to see off tigerish Hull City at the KCOM stadium 2-1 thanks to a strike from Michy Batshuayi and from the head of Fikayo Tomori.
But this was no vintage away performance from the west Londoners, who struggled in the second half, and a late Kamil Grosicki free-kick put the FA Cup 4th tie in doubt right up to the final whistle.
Confidence is running low from the men from Stamford Bridge, and it’s difficult to see a way out of the slump.
A couple of big wins might help, but it’s not clear where the goals are going to come from.
Hull deserved to take the match to a replay - they fought right until the end.
Chelsea need support for Tammy Abraham - while Batshuayi scored, he did little else to suggest he will be an adequate replacment to the young England striker who could be out for a couple of more weeks.
After containing an energetic start by the home side, Chelsea snatched the lead after six minutes with their first attack.
A Matteo Kovacic cross-field ball found Cesar Azpilicueta on the right. The Spain defender put in a cross for Callum Hudson-Odoi, the ball fell however invitingly to striker Michy Batshuayi, who slashed home a right-footer from eight yards out past George Long.
The Blues settled down from that point, and started to dominate possession of the ball. Ross Barkley could have doubled the lead on 16 min utes when Mason Mount bisected the Tigers rearguard to set up his fellow England team-mate. However Barkley could not get full control of the ball and it limped into the hands of goalkeeper Long.
Mount went free on 33 minutes with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Long was equal to the task once again, thwarting the midfielder bu kicking that ball away to safety.
Azpilicueta forced a fine save from Long on the stroke of half-time having run into the Hull penalty area late to latch onto a good left byline cross from Marcos Alonso.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
But like the start of the first half, the home side came out of the traps quickest.
Jarrod Bowen, silt the star player for the Tigers, almost scored a worldie cutting the Chelsea midfield and defence apart with a strong run. His blaster, just inched over Willy Caballero’s crossbar.
Incredibly, with their first attack of the second half, on 63 minutes, the Blues notched up a second goal.
Mason Mount was tripped just outside the Hull penalty area. From the resultant deep Barkley free-kick, Fikayo Tomori was free at the far post to powerfully head past Long.
Head coach Frank Lampard used the advantage to instantly make two substitutions, Billy Gilmour came on for Hudson-Odoi while Willian replaced Mount.
The confidence evaporated from the home side and entered the visitors as Chelsea finally too control of the half. Pedro had a couple of decent efforts to extend the lead, the second a clipped shot that went in to the side netting.
But the home side got themselves back in to the make with 12 minutes left when substitute Kamil Grosicki’s free-kick, given away needlessly by Alonso, from just outside the Chelsea penalty area, took a massive deflection off Kovacic’s boot and looped past Caballero and into the net.
Lampard ate up some seconds late on by bringing on Tariq Lamptey for Pedro.
The Blues survived a few more late scares as the home side threw the kitchen sink as well as goalkeeper Long into the attacking mix, but they held on, just.
Next up for the Blues is another away trip, this time to Leicester City next Saturday in the Premier League.
Teams: Chelsea: Caballero, Alonso, Azpilicueta, Zouma, Tomori, Mount, Barkley, Kovacic, Pedro, Hudson-Odoi, Batshuayi
Subs: Lamptey, Ian Maatsen, Cumming, Christensen, Gilmour, Willian, Emerson
Hull City: Long, Lichaj, Tafazolli, Burke, Eaves, McKenzie, Honeyman, Bowen, Lopes, Kane, Wilkes,
Subs: Ingram, Grosicki, McLoughlin, Kingsley, Magennis, Irvine, Samuelson
Referee: Craig Pawson