By Paul Lagan at Kenilworth Road
Luton Town 2 v Chelsea 3
Romelu Lukaku scored the winner in a 3-2 victory over Luton Town at Kenilworth Rod tonight that put the Blues into the 6th round of the FA Cup.
But this was a game that felt secondary to the sensational news coming out from the hallowed corridors of Stamford Bridge that Roman Abramovich was selling up.
In a pivotal day in Chelsea’s recent history, the players on the pitch almost made it the worst day in their recent history with elimination from the FA Cup a distinct possibility.
Having succumbed to a second minute goal, the west Londoners struggled to gain control of the tie.
They equalised, lost the lead again, equalised again and finally put the match to bed, 12 minutes from the end thanks to Lukaku’s close range sliding effort.
But this was a match that had the fans in shock from the start.
The announcement just before the game that Abramovich was picking his ball up and leaving after almost 20 years in charge put the fans in subdued mood at the start.
The players seemingly looked and played as if in shock too.
No doubt there are a few more shocks in store before the ownership of the club of the boys and girls from SW6 is decided.
It took just one minute and 43 seconds for the home side to send their fans wild with the opening goal.
A regulation corner on the left saw Reece Burke first to the ball and his glancing header zipped wide of Kepa and the ball arrowed into the to the top left-hand corner of his net.
On 10 minutes Hatters goalkeeper Jed Steer collapsed to the ground as he about to grab. High ball.
He punched the ground in frustration, knowing that he had succumbed to a serious injury.
He was stretchered off after three minutes laying on the ground receiving treatment.
He was replaced by reserve goalie Harry Isted.
Chelsea had their first effort on goal on 23 minutes. Saul, header following excellent set up play went straight into the hands of Isted.
Dan Potts almost doubled the score when a simple cross to the back post saw Potts rise above the rest but head straight to Kepa.
Sixty seconds later on 27 minutes, the Blues equalised. There was a element of skill and luck couple with a smart finish.
The smart was Mason Mount collecting a high ball, the luck was that Timo Werner lost control of the ball and it fell to in-running Saul. The smart, was the finish of the Spain midfielder’s perfect curling right-footer that nestled into the bottom left hand corner of the Isted’s net.
Saul and Romelu Lukaku tested Isted within five minutes of their efforts – both times, he made excellent goal-saving efforts as the Blues went for their second goal.
With five minutes left of the half, it all went pear-shaped for the west Londoners as a long ball fell to Harry Cornick who raced clear. Kepa came out, but not quick enough didn’t narrow the angle enough and Cornick simply clipped the ball around him and into the net to put the Hatters 2-1 up.
There were no changes by either side at half time.
Saul,had the first effort of the second half on 49 minutes but Isted stood firm and collected the shot with ease.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek tried a header from a corner, unlike Luton’s first goal, this one went wide.
Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel decided enough was enough and on 61 minutes replaced Kenedy and Hudson-Odoi, bringing on Christian Pulisic and Harvey Vale.
While the Blues dominated play, they never really looked like scoring until, on on 68 minutes. Long ball found Werner free. What would he do? Would he crumble under the pressure like so many times before? Without thinking too much, The £54million hitman took one touch and almost dribbled the ball home from close range to level the scores.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, the World Club champions, The champions of Europe’s turned the game around. And again it was Werner who became provider and his byline pass to Lukaku gave the Belgium striker the simplest of chances of sliding home a left-footer from close range to make it 3-2.
Chelsea deserved their win, just, but will have to up their game significantly on Saturday when they travel to Burnley in the Premier League.
Teams: Chelsea, Kepa, Rudiger, Jorginho, Lukaku, Werner, Loftus-Cheek, Saul, Mount, Hudson-Odoi, Kenedy, Sarr
Subs: Mendy, Kante, Kovacic, Pulisic, Barkley, James, Williams, Vale, Hall
Luton, Steer, Potts, Cornick, Berry, Gomes, Lockyer, Burke, Kioso, Muskie, Bell, Osho,
Subs: Bree, Naismith, Hilton, Snodgrass, Clark, Isted, Campbell, Thorpe, Jerome