Chelsea need extra time to scrape past Plymouth


Chelsea needed extra time and a late penalty save from Kepa Arrizabalaga to beat Plymouth and secure a place in the FA Cup fifth round.

Blues boss Thomas Tuchel tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of the game so was not at Stamford Bridge, where his team had to come from behind, with Marcos Alonso scoring the winner.

Kepa spared the European champions a penalty shoot-out by keeping out Ryan Hardie’s spot-kick.

Macaulay Gillesphey shrugged off Romelu Lukaku to head the League One side into the lead after seven minutes.

Cesar Azpilicueta equalised six minutes before half-time – after Chelsea had hit the woodwork three times.

Mateo Kovacic fired against the post and bar and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s header hit the bar before Azpilicueta scored with a clever flick from close range after being being teed up by Mason Mount.

Chelsea dominated the second half but Plymouth defended superbly and their keeper Michael Cooper produced fine saves, the pick of the bunch being a fabulous stop to deny Mount.

The Blues finally took the lead near the end of the first half of extra time when Kai Havertz exchanged passes with Timo Werner and pulled the ball back from the left for Alonso to apply the finish.

Plymouth were handed a lifeline with three minutes remaining by Malang Sarr, who was dispossessed by Hardie near the edge of the penalty area and then bundled the striker over as he tried to stop him shooting.

But keeper Kepa dived to his left to save Hardie’s penalty.

Chelsea: Kepa, Rudiger, Christensen (Alonso 45), Sarr, Azpilicueta (Chalobah 112) Jorginho, Kovacic (Werner 82), Hudson-Odoi (Havertz 64), Mount (Saul 97), Ziyech, Lukaku.
Subs not used: Bettinelli, Barkley, Kenedy, Sharman-Low.