Big guns pull through
LONDON. — Alvaro Morata scored twice as holders Chelsea began their FA Cup defence with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest in a match where a tearful Cesc Fabregas appeared to bid farewell to English football on Saturday.
The third round is the stage where top-flight clubs enter the world’s oldest senior knockout football tournament and has traditionally been associated with upsets.
But there was only one “giant-killing” on Saturday with third-tier Gillingham beating Premier League side Cardiff 1-0.
Bristol City, unbeaten in eight second division Championship games, defeated top flight basement club Huddersfield by the same score thanks to Josh Brownhill’s 72nd-minute goal.
Crystal Palace left it late to see off fourth-tier Grimsby 1-0, with Jordan Ayew scoring four minutes from time.
Meanwhile, second division Derby, managed by former England midfielder Frank Lampard, came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Premier League strugglers Southampton.
Newcastle were also held to a draw, a Matt Ritchie penalty five minutes from time ensuring a 1-1 result against Championship club Blackburn.
But Arsenal, the record 13-time FA Cup winners, won 3-0 at Blackpool.
Both Morata and Fabregas have been linked with moves away from Stamford Bridge in the January transfer window – the latter is reportedly set to join a Monaco side managed by former Arsenal team-mate Thierry Henry.
Fabregas, captain for the day, saw his poor 30th-minute penalty saved by Luke Steele.
But two goals in the space of 10 minutes early in the second half from the previously misfiring Morata, settled the tie in which Zimbabwe international Tendai Darikwa featured for Nottingham Forest.
Chelsea coach Carlo Cudicini, standing in on media duty instead of manager Mauricio Sarri, was uncertain when asked if Fabregas had played his last game for the Blues.
“I personally don’t know,” he said.
“He (Fabregas) has been fantastic for the teams he played for before us and the contribution he has given to this club and to this team has been amazing. Cesc is a top, top player.”
Cardiff conceded eight minutes from time when midfielder Elliott List scored for south-east club Gillingham.
“I bet we would have missed their chance if we’d had it,” said Cardiff manager Neil Warnock. “We wouldn’t have scored in a million years.”
It seemed Southampton were cruising into the fourth round following goals early in each half by Nathan Redmond but Derby hit back with two in quick succession after the hour mark through Jack Marriott and Tom Lawrence. — AFP