Luton Town 2-3 Chelsea: Romelu Lukaku ends his goal drought to seal progress to the FA Cup quarter-finals for crisis-hit Blues after they fell behind TWICE against Championship opposition
- Luton Town came close to causing another Premier League upset on Wednesday
- They opened the scoring in the second minute of the game to lead Chelsea 1-0
- Thomas Tuchel’s side responded in the 27th minute with a goal from Saul Niguez
- However, Luton’s Harry Cornick levelled the scores again in the 40th minute
- Werner provided a clam and collected finish to make it 2-2 in the second half
- But, it was Romelu Lukaku who ended his goal drought to seal the victory
So the farewell tour started with a frightful scare for Chelsea in the humble surroundings of Luton Town followed by a sigh of relief as Romelu Lukaku, the most expensive of all the footballers signed under Roman Abramovich, came to the rescue.
Twelve minutes remains when Lukaku, the £97.5million striker, turned in a low cross from Timo Werner, who converted the equaliser to make it 2-2, 10 minutes earlier.
Luton had led twice but their threat was extinguished and Thomas Tuchel’s side move into the FA Cup quarter finals, one of the certainties in an uncertain future after Abramovich declared his intention to the sell the club on Wednesday night.
Under-fire striker Romelu Lukaku saved Premier League giants Chelsea from FA Cup upset
He scored in the 78th minute of the game to secure Chelsea a 3-2 win away from home
The statement dropped an hour before kick-off at Kenilworth Road, where the corner flags fluttered in Ukrainian colours and Chelsea fans chorused the name of their favourite Russian oligarch before kick-off.
Luton supporters booed in response. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy to be expected from a club that has crashed into non-league, flirted with extinction and climbed back into the Championship in the time since Abramovich arrived in English football.
‘You’re getting sold in the morning,’ crowed the home fans, and confronted Chelsea players when they retrieved the ball to take a throw-in with banners declaring their support for Ukraine.
Luton Town opened the scoring in the second minute of the game to lead Chelsea 1-0
It was Reece Burke who managed to put the ball passed Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa (above)
As if one shock announcement wasn’t enough, it was swiftly followed by confirmation Kenedy was making a first Chelsea appearance for more than four years.
Luton: Steer 6 (Isted 14, 6); Kioso 6, Burke 6.5, Lockyer 6, Potts 6.5, Bell 6; Mendes Gomes 6.5 (Hylton 76, 6), Osho 6, Berry 7 (Campbell 63, 5); Muskwe (Snodgrass 76, 5), Cornick 7 (Jerome 63, 5).
Subs: Isted, Bree, Naismith, Clark, Thorpe.
Goals: Burke 2, Cornick 40
Manager: Nathan Jones 6
Chelse: Arrizabalaga 6; Callum Hudson-Odoi 5 (Vale 61, 6), Rudiger 7, Loftus-Cheek 7.5, Sarr 5; Jorginho 6 (James 76, 6.5), Saul 7.5, Kenedy 5 (Pulisic 61, 6), Mount 7; Lukaku 7, Werner 8.
Subs: Mendy, Kante, Kovacic, Barkley, Williams, Hall
Goals: Saul 27, Werner 68, Lukaku
Manager: Thomas Tuchel 7
Ref: Peter Bankes 7
Last time the Brazilian featured, in January 2018, the owner still had a UK visa.
Kenedy was one of nine changes to the team selected by Tuchel in the Carabao Cup final on Sunday.
Among the others, there was an unusual role for Ruben Loftus-Cheek in the centre of Tuchel’s back three, where he excelled in the second half stepping into midfield with the ball and dictating play.
Although did not look nearly so comfortable defending in the air.
Kepa Arrizabalaga was in goal, three days after his penalty shootout nightmare at Wembley, and things got worse for him before they improved.
Kepa was fishing the ball from his net within two minutes as Luton boss Nathan Jones, priorities set on the play-off race, made changes, too.
The home side opened with confidence and energy, however, on the front foot to unsettle their illustrious visitors and their makeshift defensive unit as the noise rattled around confines of the Kenny.
Centre-half Burke struck from Luke Berry’s corner, a glancing header at the near post, flashing across goal and in off the far post.
Luton’s hopes were hit when they lost goalkeeper Jed Steer, injured in bizarre circumstances as he sprinted from his goal.
Steer tumbled and fell, and the ball bounced past him. His defenders recovered to avert the danger but the ‘keeper left on a stretcher, clearly in pain.
Substitute Harry Isted came off the bench for his first senior appearance of the season, and quite a contrast to his previous one, at Bromley in the National League during a loan spell at Wealdstone.
Isted settled quickly, plucking a ball out of the air and saving from Saul Niguez but Chelsea did summon an equaliser.
Saul scored it, his first goal for the club. A curling effort from the edge of the penalty area after a mistake in midfield by Gabe Osho conceded possession to Mason Mount and exposed his defence.
Thomas Tuchel’s side responded in the 27th minute with a goal from Saul Niguez (above)
However, Luton’s Harry Cornick (above) levelled the scores again in the 40th minute
Chelsea rarely found a happy rhythm, unable to slick passes as they might have liked, but they dominated briefly and, at this stage, threatened to seize control of the tie.
Luton resisted and Isted stood firm, with fine saves to foil Saul again, Kenedy and Romelu Lukaku before they sprang out of defence to score their second, five minutes before half time.
Carlos Mendes Gomes released Harry Cornick and his low shot beat Kepa as the ‘keeper dashed from his line.
Chelsea reacted angrily, claiming Cornick was offside, and referee Peter Bankes brandished his yellow card at Tuchel’s assistant Zsolt Low who climbed off the bench to join the protests.
Timo Werner (above) provide a clam and collected finish to make it 2-2 in the second half
But, it was Romelu Lukaku who ended his goal drought to seal the victory on Wednesday night
There was no VAR in operation at Kenilworth Road but replays supported the officials. Malang Sarr had stepped up in attempt to play offside but mistimed his move and Cornick was just on.
Saul tested Isted again before he moved to replace Kenedy as the left wing-back as Tuchel shuffled his team on the hour and drew a response.
Werner made it 2-2 when he collected a pass from Loftus-Cheek and nudged it past Isted from close range and Lukaku fired them into the lead for the first time, sliding in to turn a low cross from Werner into the net.
‘After losing on Sunday we wanted to show we want to go into the next final,’ said Werner. ‘It was hard work but we won.’
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