Demba Ba made the perfect start to his Chelsea career, scoring twice to help his side gain passage to the 4th round of the FA Cup with a 5-1 win against Southampton.
The Saints took the lead at St Mary’s through Jay Rodriguez but were on their way to defeat at half-time as Ba scored his first of the afternoon followed by a Victor Moses strike from just inside the area with seconds before the break. Branislav Ivanovich headed in the third shortly after half time before Ba doubled his tally on the hour mark; an instinctive finish from an Eden Hazard pass. Southampton’s Steven Davis was adjudged to have handled the ball with seven minutes remaining and Frank Lampard buried the resulting spot kick.
The result was the perfect tonic to a miserable 1-0 defeat at home to QPR in mid-week. Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez came in for heavy criticism from home fans in the wake of the loss; those aggrieved pointing to too many selection changes. However the signing of Ba from Newcastle as well as a convincing win on the road in the cup will help ease fears that the mid-week result was anything more than a blip.
But it didn’t exactly go to plan in the early stages of the game and Southampton started brightly, backed by a vociferous home crowd. Rodriguez nearly got in before the break-through but for Ivanovich’s intervention, however the Saints were not to be denied and Rodriguez finished smartly with the outside of his right boot after a clever pass from Jason Puncheon had put the forward clear.
Despite the set back Chelsea kept their cool and the equaliser was the invention of a familiar duo. Collecting the ball just inside the home side’s half, Hazard came forward at pace and evading the attentions of several Saint’s defenders picked out Juan Mata whose run took him into the area. The Spaniard had just enough time to flick the ball goal-wards and Ba followed in to make sure.
With the game level, Chelsea set about taking the lead and they were clearly in the mood with the attacking quartet of Ba, Mata, Hazard and Moses causing problems for the hosts. A second goal looked imminent and it was Moses who- so often a bit part player since his move to Stamford Bridge- provided the finish moments before half time, controlling Ashley Cole’s pass with his right and instantly swiping with his left to give Artur Boruc no chance.
And when play resumed in the second half, the current FA Cup holders looked in no mood to give up their trophy. The visitors were doing all of the attacking and a third goal came after 52 minutes when Ivanovich rose highest to head home from Mata’s pinpoint cross. Barely 10 minutes later the game was all but over and Chelsea’s name all but in the hat when Ba added his second, and it was a goal of pure predatory instinct.
Hazard had bags of space just inside the Southampton penalty area and spotting the run of Ba, slid a perfectly weighted ball through for the Senegalese striker to prod home. It was perhaps a little less spectacular than some of the goals we were used to seeing at Newcastle but it showed a more subtle side to his game, one that will be welcomed by that of Mata and Hazard.
Ba nearly completed a dream debut hat-trick moments later but his header from a Moses cross was well saved by Boruc. However when Davis was penalised in his own area for handball, there seemed to be only one outcome as Lampard placed the ball. Smashing the ball low into the corner, the England midfielder joined Bobby Tambling in holding the record for the most FA Cup goals for the club (25). With passage to the 4th round all but certain, there is no doubt that the Chelsea veteran is set to add to that tally.
The comprehensive victory at St Mary’s does much more than just put Chelsea into the next round. It shows that this is a team capable of responding to such disappointments as mid-weeks defeat to QPR, and but for the opening 20 minutes the result never looked in much doubt. In addition, their latest addition to the team looks as though he has been a Chelsea player for years, so impressive was Ba’s debut performance and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more goals in the Blue shirt for years to come.
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