Werner finds finishing touch in Chelsea’s stroll past Chesterfield | FA Cup

The cups are shoring up Chelsea’s season. After a run of three wins in nine games that has made a title challenge extremely unlikely and cost them top spot in their Champions League group, wins in the first leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final and the third round of the FA Cup have restored a sense of stability at Stamford Bridge. This went about as well as it could have done for Thomas Tuchel’s side: ahead early and so in control by half-time that he could afford to rest players in the second half.

“It’s very good for the young boys, and again they stepped up and showed what they are capable of,” said Tuchel. “It was good. There’s no need to talk it down artificially, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed: we played a fifth-division team.”

But the magic of the Cup is that anything can happen: even Timo Werner can score. He had a go both at being offside and missing, but did manage to shovel the ball into an empty net after Hakim Ziyech’s initial effort, smartly created by Mateo Kovacic, had been blocked. There was the inevitable wait for VAR to ratify it and for once, having cancelled out 16 previous Werner efforts since his arrival in west London, it did.

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And so, after six minutes, the chance of an upset, of the National League side beating the European champions, was in effect gone. Which, in a sense, took the pressure off. Six thousand Chesterfield fans, roughly their average home gate, packed the Shed, determined to enjoy the day – so much so that they greeted the dimming of lights before kick-off with a great gasp of amazement and delight, before perhaps realising that, even in the more remote corners of Derbyshire, lights that go on and off aren’t really that exciting any more, and trying to correct the fault by jeering and asking “Who are you?”

The answer was swiftly provided: a much better football team than them. Callum Hudson-Odoi, given far too much space, curled a second after 18 minutes, before Romelu Lukaku converted a cross from the impressive debutant left-back Lewis Hall. Chelsea fans responded with applause warm enough to suggest Lukaku has been forgiven after his Sky Italia interview. Chesterfield fans responded by chanting “Romelu Lukaku, he’s Inter Milan.” And why not? With the final three-quarters of the game rendered an exhibition, they can hardly be blamed for taking their fun where they could find it.

“It was a fantastic experience for us,” said the Chesterfield manager, James Rowe. “When the team sheet comes it’s exciting for everybody. That’s what we’ve worked for. It’s a remarkable day for everybody.”

Chesterfield’s Akwasi Asante grabs the ball after scoring.
Chesterfield’s Akwasi Asante grabs the ball after scoring. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

When a looping Andreas Christensen header, after the Chesterfield keeper Scott Loach had parried Hall’s shot, made it 4-0 six minutes before the break it brought to mind 7-1, the scoreline in 1907 when they last met Chelsea in a league game. The England international George Hilsdon, nicknamed the “Gatling Gun” for the rapidity of his shooting, scored twice in that game but when war came, the Gatling Gun went missing as he tried to dodge his call-up. He was finally found hiding in a chicken run.

Badly gassed at Arras, he never played football again, and tried to scrape together a living working as a teaboy on building sites, running a pub and organising raffles. When he died in Leicester in 1941, only four people came to his funeral and he was buried in an unmarked grave. A collection from Chelsea fans bought a headstone in 2015.

Hilsdon’s memory, though, lives on: the weather vane on the East Stand – which tradition (and memories of the club’s decline when it was taken for refurbishment in the seventies) says must never be removed for fear of dreadful misfortune – is modelled on him. A mismatch it may be today, but the previous season Chesterfield had been the first away side to win at Stamford Bridge. This is a fixture with history.

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The questions for the second half were whether Chesterfield could nick a goal and whether they could keep the margin down to under the six they lost by to Hilsdon and co.

The answers to both questions were yes. Akwasi Asante gleefully knocked in after the tireless Kabongo Tshimanga’s shot had been saved to provide a proper souvenir for the away fans behind that goal. And although Ziyech scored a 55th-minute penalty, Chesterfield were resolute enough that the score never threatened to become embarrassing; as such, both teams probably ended up satisfied enough.

This was the other side of a third-round mismatch: not an upset, but a gently enjoyable day out for everybody.

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