Chelsea edged past Barnsley and into the quarter-final of The FA Cup with a hard-fought victory at Oakwell Stadium. It wasn’t quite the goalfest at Stamford Bridge earlier this season, as it ended Barnsley 0-1 Chelsea.
Tammy Abraham scored the only goal of the game with Chelsea’s only shot on target, after 64 minutes. Reece James broke into space down the right hand side, found by a wonderful Billy Gilmour pass, before playing a well-timed ball across the face of goal for Abraham to finish from close range.
Despite making ten changes to the side that beat Sheffield United on Sunday, Thomas Tuchel was able to name a strong line up for the Fifth Round trip to Barnsley, the German’s first taste of The FA Cup.
Making his first start under the new manager was Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal, as well as Kurt Zouma and Emerson in defence. Kanté continued his injury return by taking the captain’s armband and starting alongside Gilmour in midfield; whilst Ziyech and Pulisic returned to the starting eleven support Abraham in attack.
A mixture of bad weather and a congested fixture list meant that the pitch at Oakwell Stadium would be unlike anything Chelsea had played on for a long time, a factor which played a part in a difficult start for the Blues.
The visitors struggled to find their rhythm early on and Barnsley’s high pressing saw Chelsea’s patient build up play from the back come unstuck on numerous occasions.
That lead to the first chance of the game falling to Barnsley; and it was a golden chance missed by right wing-back Callum Brittain. Alex Mowatt crossed in from the left, met by the onrushing Brittain, who had completely lost his marker Alonso with some clever movement, before only being able to divert an effort straight at Kepa from just a couple of yards out.
After being lucky not to find themselves behind, Tuchel’s side seemed to settle in to the game after twenty minutes.
With no VAR in use as the fixture was being played at a Championship ground, Chelsea were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty, after Abraham was judged to have not been fouled by Toby Sibbick.
Gilmour played a good ball through for Abraham, who looked to be taking the ball in his stride towards goal before Sibbick slid in to make a challenge. Referee Martin Atkinson immediately waved play on and in fairness, the tackle appeared legitimate but the decision would have been overturned if VAR had been present.
Just three minutes later, Abraham was appealing for a penalty again, going down after colliding with Andersen in the box. Atkinson made the correct call on that occasion however as there wasn’t much in the challenge at all.
Chelsea moved the ball around well in the final 15 minutes of the half, however Barnsley were far from under the cosh against their Premier League opponents and had easily the biggest chances of the first 45 minutes through Brittain’s effort.
HT: Barnsley 0-0 Chelsea
Clearly feeling the need for a change of emphasis after the break, Tuchel made two substitutions as Reece James and Antonio Rüdiger replaced Christensen and Alonso.
The game began to open up slightly as the second half started, with home side Barnsley growing in confidence of causing an unlikely upset.
Chelsea’s first real effort on goal came through Hudson-Odoi, with a chance that he created for himself and so nearly finished. The winger drove in at the defence from the left, ghosting past a couple of Barnsley players before fizzing a shot across the keeper and just past the post.
With an hour gone Chelsea still hadn’t registered a shot on target, however they were starting to find space and Abraham almost released Gilmour on goal with a clever back heel, which was intercepted just in time.
Five minutes and one of the first periods of sustained Chelsea pressure later, substitute James found himself charging on to a Gilmour pass down the right, with space to travel into the box and measure a pass across goal to a grateful Abraham, who tapped home close range to make it Barnsley 0-1 Chelsea.
The goalscorer appeared to be very close to being offside, another moment that VAR definitely would have had a look at, but the goal was given and Chelsea had that vital opening goal.
Barnsley hadn’t really got going in the second half, after such a positive start to the game, and the home side would have every right to be disappointed if they couldn’t get back on the front foot and push for an equaliser
Potential match winner Abraham had a vital say at the other end with just over ten minutes to go, after Kepa unsuccessfully tried to claim a free-kick, as the ball dropped to Michael Sollbauer who’s flick towards goal had to be headed off the line by Abraham.
After coming so close to scoring again it was inevitable that Barnsley would throw the kitchen sink at Chelsea, which they tried to do as the final stages of the game were littered with free-kicks for the home side.
Even former Chelsea youth goalkeeper Brad Collins found himself in the box in the closing stages, however, the home side couldn’t find an equaliser as Chelsea squeezed through to the quarter-final of The FA Cup.
FT: Barnsley 0-1 Chelsea
Barnsley 0-1 Chelsea: Final Thoughts
A far from convincing result in Tuchel’s FA Cup debut, Chelsea were put under real pressure by Championship opposition, in difficult, freezing conditions and showed good character to keep a clean sheet and battle their way to victory.
The draw for the next round of the competition was completed prior to kick off, with Chelsea drawn at home to Sheffield United.
Written by Dom Domaingue (@dmdsport)
Edited by Rob Pratley