Premier League

Player ratings as Fernandez inspires surprise FA Cup win

Player ratings as Fernandez inspires surprise FA Cup win

Chelsea cruised into the fifth round of the FA Cup on Wednesday night thanks to a surprise one-sided win over Aston Villa in a fourth round replay at Villa Park.

Conor Gallagher’s first goal of the season early in the game set the tone for a dominant night, with Nicolas Jackson netting on his first start since returning from international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations and Enzo Fernandez putting the game out of sight for Villa soon after half-time.

One back from Villa substitute Moussa Diaby in stoppage time served to take the sheen off the Chelsea win but was scant consolation for Unai Emery’s side.

Chelsea now go on to face Leeds United for a place in the quarter-finals at the end of this month.

How the game unfolded

Chelsea came into the tie off the back of a humbling Premier League defeat at the hands of Wolves at the weekend, yet the early spark seen from Mauricio Pochettino’s side certainly wouldn’t have suggested that had been the case.

Bizarrely, the opposite was true of a sluggish Villa following their annihilation of Sheffield United.

Fernandez, whose agent had to speak out ahead of the game to quash rumours of a Chelsea exit, impressed throughout and delivered an early warning sign when a close-range header was grasped by fellow countryman Emiliano Martinez in the home goal.

There wasn’t much of a wait for Gallagher’s 11th minute opener and Fernandez was involved again, winning the ball back just inside the Villa half. Jackson took it on down the left, with Noni Madueke laying it back to Gallagher to finish from the edge of the box.

Villa could have hit back instantly when Leon Bailey fired straight at Djordje Petrovic a Chelsea struggled to clear, with Ollie Watkins also stinging the palms of the Serbian stopper.

But it was quickly 2-0 and the hosts won’t have been pleased with how easy Chelsea scored it. Madueke had far too much room to run into down the Blues’ right flank, isolating Villa left-back Alex Moreno as Malo Gusto got forward in support. The overlapping Frenchman put the ball into a good area and Jackson ghosted between defenders in the box for a simple header.

A surprisingly disjointed Villa threatened briefly again as John McGinn was found in space on the left of Chelsea’s box, with his finish lacking conviction and comfortably tipped over.

Fernandez’s world class free-kick early in the second half ended things as a contest and was exactly the moment his overall performance deserved, picking out the very top corner…

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