London (Agencies): Gonzalo Higuain made his first start for Chelsea as two goals from Willian and a Callum Hudson-Odoi strike gave Maurizio Sarri’s side a 3-0 FA Cup win over Sheffield Wednesday — who had a penalty award overturned by VAR — at Stamford Bridge.
Wednesday’s Adam Reach, the scorer of some spectacular recent goals, had the game’s first shot but his deflected effort was no real threat to Willy Caballero in the Chelsea goal. The visitors, playing very deep, were restricting Higuain’s chances of getting on the ball, Jordan Thorniley sticking close to him, while a free kick awarded for a foul on him by Tom Lees came to nothing.
It was a sleepy start at the Bridge but, after Ethan Amapadu had thumped over, Higuain almost changed that after 19 minutes, his strike deflected wide after he was found by Andreas Christensen’s low pass. After 22 minutes, Championship visitors Wednesday were awarded a penalty when Amapadu was adjudged to have fouled Joey Pelupessy, only for the decision to be overturned by a VAR review.
That generated little in the away of protest from the Wednesday players — but within seconds referee Andre Marriner had given a penalty at the other end, Cesar Azpilicueta fouled by Sam Hutchinson and that decision upheld. Willian stepped up to convert with ease, giving the home side a 26th-minute lead. Wednesday tried to hit back, but Reach and Pelupessy made a mess of a potential break before Chelsea threatened again as Hudson-Odoi won a dangerous free kick which eventually came to nothing.
The visitors had defender Morgan Fox booked for a foul on Hudson-Odoi before Higuain was back on the ball but lacked support as he looked for options out wide. Chelsea were comfortable, with Wednesday putting little pressure on them, and began the second half on the front foot as Willian fired in a dangerous cross that was scrambled away.
But Wednesday were beginning to come forward a little more, Caballero forced into action as he clawed a looping cross from Reach out of harm’s way. Hudson-Odoi set up Mateo Kovacic but his effort from outside the area was ballooned high into the Shed, and Willian sparked more danger when another teasing cross eluded both Higuain and Kovacic.
But after 65 minutes Hudson-Odoi doubled Chelsea’s lead, finding space inside the area and firing in off Keiren Westwood to put the Londoners in total control. Substitutions followed, Ampadu off and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on for Chelsea and Fernando Forstieri replacing Pelupessy for Wednesday.
The visitors then made a double change, George Boyd and Steven Fletcher replaced by Atdhe Nuhiu and Lucas Joao, but they were unable to pose any real problems for the home defence in a tie drifting towards its conclusion. Kovacic almost found Higuain with a smart backheel on the edge of the area, but with 10 minutes remaining the new striker’s afternoon was over as he was replaced by Olivier Giroud.
Moments later Willian put the icing on the cake with an outstanding finish, guiding the ball beautifully past Westwood from the edge of the box to secure the easiest of wins for Chelsea, who replaced Ross Barkley with Jorginho late on.