Of course only those who believe in the tooth fairy and honest politicians seriously thought Peterborough United had a chance in their third round FA Cup tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge today (January 8).
Even with a largely second string in action for the home side the gulf in class was too great as the Premier League leaders won the match 4-1, a result that represents a Posh best at this venue in this competition.
Two goals from the excellent Pedro (he was an open goal away from a hat-trick), one from £33 million striker Michy Batshuyai and another from Brazilian ace Willian won the day in front of 41,000 fans.
Posh fans did have the consolation of a red card for Chelsea captain, legend, leader John Terry midway through the second half and a goal for Tom Nichols three minutes later when Posh pulled the score back to 3-1.
As promised Chelsea fielded a weakened starting line-up, although that’s a very relative term in these days of expensively-assembled Premier League squads.
Nine of the team that lost at Spurs in the Blues’ previous outing were ruthlessly despatched. Big guns Diego Costa and Eden Hazard were among those on the bench in case of emergencies.
And Posh boss Grant McCann kept his pre-match promise to pick an attacking side designed to have a go at their illustrious hosts, and a wide open, expansive attacking contest ensued, much better than the dull rubbish served up at Anfield earlier in the day.
But giant-killing law demands the underdogs take their chances while defending pluckily and Posh failed to take heed of the first part.
Only six minutes were on the clock when Marcus Maddison, playing wide in a 4-4-2 formation, delivered a superb cross for Lee Angol six yards from goal. Sadly Angol’s poke at goal lacked force and precision and asmir Begovic was able to save.
It was always likely to prove costly as the remarkable athletes that make up the Chelsea back-up squad started to turn on the power and pace. They enjoyed themselves particularly when Posh lost possession, attacking with width and control.
The Premier League leaders opened the scoring on 18 minutes when Pedro was on hand to finish superbly after Chris Forrester and Luke McGee had blocked shots from Cesc Fabregas and Nathaniel Chalobah. McGee should probably have been able to palm the ball to a safer place.
Chelsea had struck a post from the first corner of the game and McGee had reacted well to hold on to a Terry piledriver from the next set-piece, one won after Gwion Edwards had bravely twharted the frustrated Bathshuayi.
Bathshuayi, who cost a mere £33 million in the summer, looked desperate to score. He shot when he could have played in Willian before forcing McGee into one of several saves he completed with his feet.
Pedro also registered the miss of the season, striking the bar from six yards after Ruben Loftus-Cheek had teed him up, following McGee’s save of the teenager’s intial shot.
But Chelsea dominated the last 25 minutes of the half and the inevitable second goal arrived a minute before the interval when Posh lost possession and found themselves in a 4 v 2 situation.
This time Batshuayi made no mistake after Branoslav Ivanovic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek had set him up.
The star of the half for Posh was Edwards who direct running troubled the home defence, most noticably England central defender Gary Cahill who was left for dead before a cross was hacked out from under his own crossbar by Kurt Zouma.
Chelsea should have scored a third goal at the start of the second half after Leo Da Silva lost the ball leaving Loftus-Cheek to run through before sidefooting wide of the target.
Willian made no mistake though seven minutes into the half when allowed to pick his spot from the edge of the area.
McGee then made a fine fingertip to save to thwart Chalobah moments later before Maddison streaked clear of the home defence. He should have found the unmarked Angol with his cross, but underhit the ball badly.
A double substitution helped Posh improve as Paul Taylor’s dash and energy proved a handful for the ponderous members of the Chelsea defence.
But it was a fine pass from Forrester and Angol’s trickery that put the sole dampener on the home side’s afternoon midway through the half as Terry clumsily dumped the Posh striker on his backside to earn a deserved red card for the former England skipper.
And within three minutes Posh had their consolation goal as Michael Smith’s excellent right-wing cross was tapped home by Nichols, exactly a year to the day he scored against Liverpool for Exeter.
But any thoughts of a comeback were soon dashed when Pedro claimed his second goal of the game in the 76th minute, a precise sidefoot from 22 yards.
Posh left the pitch to a standing ovation from the 6,000 travelling fans. It was a fine effort on and off the pitch.
Posh: Luke McGee, Michael Smith, Andrew Hughes, (sub Jerome Binnom-Williams, 83 mins), Michael Bostwick, Ryan Tafazolli, Chris Forrester, Gwion Edwards (sub Martin Samuelsen, 58 mins), Leo Da Silva Lopes, Marcus Maddison (sub Paul Taylor, 58 mins), Lee Angol, Tom Nichols. Unused substitutes: Dominic Ball, Callum Chettle, Brad Inman, Mark Tyler.
Chelsea: Asmir Begovic, Kurt Zouma, John Terry, Gary Cahill (sub Ola Aina, 58 mins), Branislav Ivanovic, Cesc Fabregas, Nathaniel Chalobah, Ruben Loftus-Cheek (sub Cesar Azpilicueta, 67 mins), Pedro, Michi Batshuayi, Willian (sub N’Golo Kante, 73 mins). Unused substitutes: Eduardo, , N’Golo Kante, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard, Diego Costa.
Goals: Posh - Nichols (70 mins).
Chelsea - Pedro (18 mins & 76 mins), Batshuayi (44 mins), Willian (52 mins).
Sending off: Chelsea - Terry (denying a goal-scoring opportunity).
Cautions: Posh - Forrester (foul).
Chelsea - Fabregas (foul).
Referee: Kevin Friend 8.
Attendance: 41,003 (6,000 Posh).