Returning Romelu Lukaku struck as Chelsea cruised to a comfortable victory against non-league Chesterfield in a 5-1 FA Cup third-round canter at Stamford Bridge.
The Champions League holders flexed all their muscles of quality and depth to nullify any prospect of a cup upset.
Lukaku tapped in debutant Lewis Hall’s low cross and missed three gilt-edged chances before being withdrawn at half-time.
Academy product Hall, 17 impressed on his senior bow claiming that deserved assist for Lukaku, with Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Andreas Christensen and Hakim Ziyech all also finding the net.
The 91 league places between the two sides told throughout, with Chelsea still able to make seven changes despite a raft of injuries and Covid-19 absentees.
Akwasi Asante tapped in a late Chesterfield consolation to spark jubilant celebrations among their raucous travelling fans.
Last term’s beaten finalists, Chelsea would have been frustrated to surrender their clean sheet at the death, especially with Marcus Bettinelli making his debut in goal.
But this encounter was only ever one to negotiate safely for boss Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea.
From the moment Lukaku whipped a first-time effort from a corner over the bar, Chelsea’s dominance was rubber-stamped.
Werner tapped the Blues into a fifth-minute lead, teenager Hall the catalyst for a fast break where Ziyech’s half-saved shot fell straight to Chelsea’s German forward with an open goal ahead.
Werner could have doubled his tally had he been able to react quick enough to another Ziyech shot parried that flashed across goal.
Hudson-Odoi’s 20-yard strike under no pressure quickly put Chelsea 2-0 up however, with the left wing-back taking aim and hitting his desired spot in relaxed fashion.
Lukaku tapped in Hall’s smart cross to put the Blues 3-0 up inside 20 minutes, with the young defender losing then regaining the ball before laying on an astute assist.
Another deep Ziyech corner begged for a Lukaku howitzer, but this time on the volley the Belgium hitman fired another first-time effort wide.
Werner’s low cutback teed up Lukaku for a third time, and again he pulled his effort wide of a post.
Third goal combo. 🔗— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 8, 2022
Christensen’s deft, looped header pushed Chelsea into a 4-0 half-time lead, the savvy Dane nodding home after Scott Loach parried Hall’s 20-yard strike.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek replaced Kovacic at the break, with Havertz coming on for Lukaku.
Christensen took the captain’s armband after Kovacic’s withdrawal.
Ziyech’s jinking run deserved a better finish than his low effort that allowed Loach a routine enough stop.
The Morocco forward made no mistake from the spot however, blasting home a penalty for the Blues’ fifth.
Calvin Miller’s rustic challenge on Pulisic could only end one way, and Ziyech opted for power to fire Chelsea further ahead.
Youngster Harvey Vale and squad man Lewis Baker replaced Pulisic and Christensen inside the hour.
By the time Ross Barkley replaced Hudson-Odoi, Malang Sarr was effectively Chelsea’s sole regular defender left on the field.
Havertz thought he had slid home a sixth, only to be pulled back for offside.
Asante ensured Chesterfield had the last word however, tapping in after Kabongo Tshimanga had driven in on goal with Bettinelli parrying his shot.
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