Chelsea eased through to the fifth round of the FA Cup, defeating Preston North End 2-0. It was a professional, clinical performance from Chelsea with goals from strikers Nicolas Anelka and Daniel Sturridge enough to guarantee that there’d be no “cupset” from Darren Ferguson’s side.
Ancelotti was true to his word, sticking with the side he named 24 hours earlier. Hilario, Ferreira, Alex, Zhirkov, Belletti and Sturridge were some of the lesser used players who started the game.
Chelsea lost Belletti to injury early. His repalcement was Florent Malouda which saw Deco move into a deeper midfield role. Hilario showed confidence in coming off his line in the early exchanges, constantly relieving any signs of Preston pressure.
Preston goalkeeper Andy Lonergan denied Zhirkov and then Alex in significant attacking moments for Chelsea, but eight minutes before half time he was powerless to stop Anelka scoring the opener. The Frenchmen cut inside from the left and hit a sweet strike that took a slight deflection, enough to take it past Lonergan before he could react.
Hilario made a super save and Ferreira nearly scored an unlikely 30 yarder before the half was out. Indeed, it only took a few minutes for Sturridge to make the game safe.
Terry headed a corner goalwards, but was denied by the impressive Lonergan. However, Sturridge was on hand to lash home the rebound with panache, the youngster wheeling away in jubilant celebration.
There were to be no genuine scares for Chelsea as Hilario kept safely throughout, thought to their credit Preston never gave in. A pleasing performance though, as Chelsea’s defence of the FA Cup gathers pace.