Chelsea breezes past to the fifth round of FA Cup on Sunday with a comfortable win over Newcastle.
Despite having the better of the opening exchanges, the visitors fell behind when Michy Batshuayi was left unmarked to slot home from close range just after the half-hour mark.
The Belgian striker doubled his account for the afternoon in fortuitous circumstances after his shot looped over Karl Darlow via a deflection off Jamaal Lascelles.
A Marcos Alonso free-kick wrapped up the victory to keep Antonio Conte’s beaten finalists last year on track.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Chelsea: Caballero, Rudiger, Christensen, Cahill, Zappacosta, Drinkwater, Kante (Ampadu 78), Alonso, Pedro (Hudson-Odoi 81), Hazard (Barkley 73), Batshuayi
Subs not used: Fabregas, Moses, Musonda, Eduardo
Goalscorers: Batshuayi 31, 44, Alonso 72
Newcastle: Darlow, Clark, Lascelles, Mbemba, Manquillo (Murphy 77), Hayden (Atsu 83), Shelvey, Haidara, Saivet, Gayle (Joselu 64), Ritchie
Subs not used: Dummett, Diame, Yedlin, Woodman
Referee: Kevin Friend.
Caballero made saves from Shelvey and Chancel Mbemba on the brink of half-time to protect the Blues’ two-goal lead and Pedro fired narrowly over the crossbar shortly after the restart.
Darlow made a tremendous save to keep out Alonso’s deflected volley but the goalkeeper was left helpless from the defender’s free-kick in the 72nd minute.
Alonso has carved out a reputation as one of the Premier League’s finest set-piece takers and his seventh goal of the season in all competitions was a beauty, a 25-yard curler that bent out of Darlow’s reach.
Although Darlow twice denied Batshuayi his hat-trick, a three-goal lead allowed Conte to introduce Ross Barkley for his home debut while youngsters Ethan Ampadu and debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi were given cameos, but the Italian will likely want further squad additions before the closure of the transfer window.