Chelsea will play Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals after goals from Fernando Torres and Victor Moses eased the pressure on Rafael Benitez in a comfortable 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
The hosts performed admirably in the first half and held Chelsea at the break thanks to good defending, coupled with some woeful attacking play from the Premier League side.
However, Moses’ 72nd minute effort sealed the game for the Blues after Torres had a slice of luck by deflecting Ramires’ shot into the top corner 21 minutes earlier, with Boro offering no response in attack.
There was an electric atmosphere inside the Teesside venue but it was Chelsea who made the stronger start. Paulo Ferreira started in a much-changed Blues line-up and his low cross from the right was inches away from meeting a sliding Moses, who would have opened the scoring from four yards.
Just after, the former Wigan Athletic man continued his good form coming from the African Cup of Nations with an exciting run on the wing before pulling back for Oscar, but the Brazilian’s first time shot was well saved by Middlesbrough goalkeeper Jason Steele.
The home side soaked up the pressure brilliantly and even managed to have a few first half opportunities on the break. Nicky Bailey’s out swinging cross was magnificently headed towards goal by Scott McDonald but the team’s top goal scorer was disappointed to see the ball drop wide of the post.
Petr Cech is usually reliable in goal for the European Champions, but he looked shaky when Mustapha Carayol let fly from 35 yards with a low fizzing effort that the Czech Republic international could only fumble and look on gratefully, as John Terry reacted first to clear the danger.
After the half-time interval, Chelsea came out brighter and grabbed a deserved lead with a huge piece of good fortune. It was Ramires who let fly from 25 yards with a curling effort, but Torres was the man who got the last touch, deflecting the ball past Steele and into the top corner for an unlikely goal from the Spaniard.
The goal gave the former Liverpool and Atletico Madrid striker a glimmer of confidence as he raced onto a long ball before curling inches over form 18 yards. Eden Hazard replaced the ineffective Yossi Benayoun and the substitution really turned the game on its head.
It was the Belgian who jinked and turned inside from 18 yards before he unleashed a superb whipping rocket that flew just wide of the goalkeeper’s left-hand post. Just after, Hazard turned provider as he raced onto Oscar’s sublime back-heel and squared across the goal for Moses to tap into the empty net, confirming their place in the quarter-finals.
It was nearly 3-0 when Chelsea’s Brazil international drifted past two defenders and fired inches wide, with skill seen rarely from Oscar at Stamford Bridge this season. Despite the score-line, Middlesbrough weren’t about to give up.
Grant Leadbitter swung in a corner towards the back post and Seb Hines rose highest but could force his header wide from four yards, in the host’s best chance of the game. Ismael Miller volleyed wide from a good position and also hit the side-netting from a tight angle, but Chelsea held on for that glamorous-looking tie with the Red Devils at Old Trafford.
Match Report by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)