Ross Barkley continued his impressive goalscoring form in this season’s FA Cup as a beleaguered Chelsea side overcame Leicester City to book their place in the semi-finals.
Frank Lampard rang the changes ahead of his side’s visit the King Power Stadium, with Billy Gilmour, Emerson and Willy Caballero amongst a host of players given a rare chance to impress.
Chelsea’s midfield found it difficult to play out of Leicester’s high press and were grateful to go into the break with the game still goalless.
Lampard brought on Cesar Azpilicueta, Mateo Kovacic and Barkley to arrest Chelsea’s complacency, and he was soon rewarded when the latter tapped home the opening goal.
Once Willian had shifted the ball infield, he then clipped a cross into the path of the on-running Barkley who side-footed his shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
The Blues could have wrapped up the victory on a couple of occasions but a combination of poor finishing and decision making ensured a nervy finish.
Leicester, however, offered very little cutting edge and Chelsea were able to see out their third win in as many games since the restart.
Here’s how we rated the Chelsea players after the win:
Willy Caballero - 6
Was rarely troubled but looked convincing enough when coming out to claim crosses.
Reece James - 5
Looked a little off the pace and was withdrawn at half-time. He was unable to play through Leicester’s press and often squandered possession.
Antonio Rudiger - 6
Dominated aerially, but struggled to find his range when playing out from the back. Ensured Jamie Vardy was kept quiet throughout.
Kurt Zouma - 7
Will be pleased to have kept a clean sheet on his return to the starting line up. Looked one of the more composed figures in Chelsea’s side, bringing the ball out of defence and distributing with ease.
Emerson - 5
Careless in possession whilst also displaying a worrying knack for fouling his marker. Emerson has digressed as Marcos Alonso has improved this season, and the Italian now looks likely to be surplus to requirements.
Billy Gilmour - 5
Hopefully a coming of age performance from Gilmour who looked loose in possession and completely overwhelmed by Leicester’s press.
N'Golo Kante - 6
Despite taking more touches than any other player on the pitch, Kante struggled to use the ball effectively and Chelsea’s play was often ponderous and lacking incision.
Mason Mount - 6
Looked bright when in possession but ultimately Mount’s work off the ball, or lack of, meant he was always on the periphery of the game. After taking just 12 touches, the Englishman was replaced by Barkley.
Willian - 6.5
Whipped in a fantastic delivery for Barkley, but was unable to ever really get hold of possession and quickly transition play on the counter-attack. His five unsuccessful touches was a testament to a complacent performance that was overshadowed by one piece of brilliance.
Tammy Abraham - 6
His hold up play was much improved and whilst rarely providing a focal point for Chelsea’s forays forward, he allowed Pulisic and Willian to pick up the ball in and around the final third. Unlucky to see his effort ruled out for offside in the second-half.
Christian Pulisic - 7
Another impressive display from the American who jinked his way through the Leicester defence at every given opportunity. Denied the opening goal by the gloves of Kasper Schmeichel, who tipped over Pulisic’s rasping drive. Rumours of a calf strain sustained during the second-half will not come as welcome news.
Mateo Kovacic – 7: Helped Chelsea gain a foothold in the game with his composure on the ball. Breaking the press with his customary drives from deep.
Cesar Azpilicueta – 6: Far more aggressive than Emerson in his attempts to intercept the ball and break forward. Chelsea looked far more assured once he came on.
Ross Barkley – 7.5: Chelsea’s FA Cup hero this season Barkley’s blindside runs into the channels helped stretch Leicester’s defence and produced the only goal of the game.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek – 5: Was let down by Barkley’s pass as he looked to break in behind. Still looks some way short of the player he was last year.
Pedro – 5: Re-energised Chelsea’s press in the closing stages but offered little else.