LONDON — Callum Hudson-Odoi scored on what could be his final Chelsea appearance Sunday and Gonzalo Higuain made his debut as Maurizio Sarri’s men cruised into the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 victory over Championship side Sheffield Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.
Hudson-Odoi’s second-half performance underlined his rich promise and why Chelsea must resist Bayern Munich’s advances if there is any chance the 18-year-old’s head can be turned back. There were also nice flashes from Andreas Christensen and Ruben Loftus-Cheek on their respective returns from minor injuries.
Ethan Ampadu’s uncertain performance at the base of midfield reinforced Sarri’s argument that Cesc Fabregas must be replaced in the January window, while not even Higuain’s eager movements could prevent Chelsea from looking startlingly short of ideas and threat in a tepid first half.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Sarri made a bold decision to pick Hudson-Odoi despite the circus around him, and the teenager’s second-half performance vindicated it emphatically. There are also signs that Christensen is improving in this system, even if Chelsea’s head coach is yet to fully trust Ampadu in the heart of midfield.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Willy Caballero, 6 — Was denied an opportunity to showcase his penalty-saving chops by VAR and was a glorified spectator for the rest of the evening. Will no doubt be hoping that he continues to get a run in the FA Cup as the quality of opponent increases, though it seems unlikely.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 — Is showing more attacking ambition these days and almost created a golden chance for Higuain with a left-footed dink through the visiting defence in the first half. Typically solid defensively and took no nonsense whenever Sheffield Wednesday tried to impose themselves physically.
DF Antonio Rudiger, 7 — Handled the muscular Steven Fletcher well, though it must be said that Sheffield Wednesday gave him little to worry about after a spirited opening 20 minutes. Used the ball sensibly and won the vast majority of his duels in the air and on the floor.
DF Andreas Christensen, 7 — Calm on the ball, read situations well and showed none of the nerves that his head coach claimed affect him on match days. Most important of all, he also played a David Luiz-esque pass over the Sheffield Wednesday defence to set up Hudson-Odoi for Chelsea’s second goal.
DF Marcos Alonso, 6 — The tall and rangy Adam Reach caused him more problems than he probably should have, but such is Alonso’s current form. His selection here seemed to confirm that he has lost his status as Sarri’s starting left-back in the Premier League.
MF Ross Barkley, 5 — Seems to have lost of his early-season confidence to take risks in possession, and his tendency towards the safe choice played a key role in neutering Chelsea’s possession play. Sarri needs him to show more if he is going to regain a starting spot ahead of Kante, Kovacic and fit-again Loftus-Cheek.
MF Ethan Ampadu, 6 — Many of his more ambitious early passes from the “Jorginho role” went astray and he grew a little tentative as a result, before being shifted to the right of the midfield three. Would have been unlucky to concede a penalty that was overturned by VAR, having won the ball cleanly.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 7 — His shooting touch continues to evade him, underlined by one effort blazed well over the crossbar. Sarri’s trust in him to do the right thing in possession was highlighted by his move into the “Jorginho role” after the break though, and he may be used there again this season.
FW Callum Hudson-Odoi, 8 — A surprise starter less than 24 hours after submitting his transfer request, he appeared to be playing within himself in the first half. Showed greater drive in the second and took his goal brilliantly, but will it just prove the exclamation mark on his Chelsea farewell?
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 6 — Showed good movement early on and his first shot should have resulted in a corner after being deflected wide. Wandered a little too much at times in search of the ball as Chelsea’s midfielders dallied, and glanced an inviting Ampadu cross wide in the second half.
FW Willian, 8 — Injected some much-needed urgency into Chelsea’s final third combinations with his speed and trickery, wowing Stamford Bridge with one particularly audacious elastico. Converted his penalty with a minimum of fuss and curled another classy effort in off the far post late on.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 7 — Showed no sign of being limited by his recent back trouble and drove forward with the ball at every opportunity, a quality that was painfully lacking from Chelsea’s starting midfield combination.
FW Olivier Giroud, NR — Brought on presumably to save Higuain for Bournemouth, his neat flick gave Willian the chance to score Chelsea’s stylish third.
MF Jorginho, NR — Provided some fresh legs and control when he replaced Ampadu in the final minutes.