Tammy Abraham’s hat-trick steers Chelsea past Luton Town
Frank Lampard’s side steady ship with FA Cup win but Werner misses from the spot
Tammy Abraham completes his hat-trick against Luton. Photograph: Catherine Ivill/Getty
Chelsea 3 Luton Town 1
The banner draped over the top tier of the Shed End served as a reminder that it will be a long time before Chelsea’s fans give up on Frank Lampard. Although results have been poor, they remain behind one of the finest players in their club’s history. The message, delivered at a social distance, was emphatic: “In Frank We Trust. Then. Now. Forever.”
Whether it alters the thinking of Chelsea’s board remains to be seen. But as his side ended a tough week on a positive note, securing passage into the fifth round of the FA Cup after subduing Luton 3-1, it must have been heartening for Lampard to see that his legendary status endures.
Lampard will know that he is not out of the woods yet. This was not particularly convincing at times. Tammy Abraham’s hat-trick settled the contest but Kepa Arrizabalaga’s error gave Luton hope and it was disappointing for Timo Werner to spurn a penalty.
For all the talk of Chelsea’s players having to fighting for the cause after a dismal run of form, the reality was that slight tactical tweaks were the difference. After suggesting that desire would matter more than the system, Lampard did alter his approach, switching to something close to a 4-4-2 formation, with Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic providing the width and Werner buzzing around Abraham up front.
The switch gave Werner more room to roam and led to Chelsea’s breakthrough in the 10th minute. The snowy conditions did nothing to slow them down and Luton, hoping to sit back and frustrate, were already showing signs of strain before Werner, released down the right by Ziyech, created the opener. The German forward produced a clever cutback despite being tightly marked and Abraham, cannily holding his run instead of bursting into the six-yard box, was in position to stroke a composed finish beyond Simon Sluga, Luton’s goalkeeper.
Although the visitors were unhappy with the goal, arguing that there were two balls on the pitch at the start of the move, it was hardly against the run of play. Chelsea, who will visit Barnsley in the next round, were purposeful in possession. Billy Gilmour, who surely deserves a chance in the league, was smart and feisty alongside Mason Mount in central midfield. The youngster’s blend of hunger in the tackle and artistry in possession impressed, while Mount offered his usual energy, underlining his importance to Lampard after being handed the captain’s armband.
It was not long before Chelsea pulled clear. With Luton struggling to compete, Reece James found space on the right before chipping a ball into the middle. The quality of the cross was such that Abraham only needed to add a subtle touch to skim a header over Sluga for his 10th goal of the season.
For all their obvious superiority, however, there was still a fragility to Chelsea. While Lampard was louder on the touchline than usual, defensive flaws lingered. There was a laxness at the back, a lack of organisation summed up by Abraham belatedly charging back when his teammates yelled at him for failing to remember that he was required to help out when Harry Cornick hurled a long throw into the area.
Then there was Arrizabalaga. Filling in for Édouard Mendy, the Spanish goalkeeper had a nervy moment with his distribution early on and he was at fault when Luton pulled one back after 30 minutes. Jordan Clark met James Bree’s cross from the right and although Arrizabalaga was slightly unsighted by Kurt Zouma, he should have done better after getting a hand to the winger’s shot.
The goal changed the mood, Luton perking up. Yet threats came at the underdogs from every angle. Chelsea increased the tempo at the start of the second half, James crossing for Pulisic to draw a pointblank save from Sluga. The chance came from more invention from Ziyech, who kept causing problems, twisting in from the right again to tee up Mount, who shot over.
Yet as the game wore on, Chelsea began to rush the final pass. They made rash decisions and the equaliser almost arrived when James sold himself, allowing Dan Potts to surge clear. Arrizabalaga redeemed himself, denying Cornick.
Luton regretted that miss when Callum Hudson-Odoi, on for Pulisic, played a one-two with Gilmour before providing Abraham with a tap-in. Lampard could relax, his nerves eased by a goal crafted in the academy, but there was a reminder of the work still to be done when Werner saw a late penalty saved. - Guardian