Highs and Lows for Chelsea Against Lower-League Sides in the FA Cup

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2016

Highs and Lows for Chelsea Against Lower-League Sides in the FA Cup

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Chelsea face MK Dons in the fourth round of the FA Cup on Sunday.

    Having defeated League 1 Scunthorpe United in their previous outing in this season's competition, it means the Blues face lower-league opposition once more as they attempt to navigate their way to Wembley for the FA Cup final in May.

    While that 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe earlier in January proved a positive affair, it's not always been plain sailing for Chelsea when they have faced teams outside of the top flight.

    There have been some major upsets in recent memory, while if we look back at games that predate the Premier League's inception in 1992, Chelsea were on the receiving end of some surprise defeats.

    Is there another upset on the cards at stadiummk? We'll have to wait until Sunday to find that one out.

    To fill the time between now and then, Bleacher Report takes a look at some of the highs and lows Chelsea have experienced against lower-league sides in the FA Cup.

Low: January 27, 1990, Bristol City 3-1 Chelsea

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    Chelsea weren't quite the force they are now when they visited Ashton Gate in January 1990 to face Bristol City in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

    Nonetheless, the Blues were a Division 1 side, and they went on to finish fifth in English football's top flight that season (they had only been promoted a year earlier).

    The Robins—languishing in the old Division 3, which is now known as League 1—ended their cup dream in spectacular fashion, though.

    Bristol City were on a run of losing just once in 15 matches, and that excellent form, which stretched back to October, carried them through against Bobby Campbell's men.

    Of course, the Robins were helped along the way by some woeful goalkeeping by Dave Beasant, who fumbled a long-range shot to allow Robbie Turner to score into an open goal.

    And as the highlights clip above shows, that set a precedent for the afternoon. Chelsea eventually lost the game 3-1.

High: May 17, 1997, Chelsea 2-0 Middlesbrough

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    We're breaking the rules slightly here as, strictly speaking, Middlesbrough weren't a lower-league side when Chelsea beat them in the 1997 FA Cup final.

    A week earlier, however, Bryan Robson's Boro were relegated from the Premier League, meaning in theory they were no longer of the top flight.

    Yes, yes, it's all semantics.

    Anyhow, there's always good reason to mention Chelsea's victory over Boro.

    This was a significant turning point in Chelsea's recent history. The Blues hadn't won a major trophy in 26 years, so defeating Boro ended a hoodoo that had begun to haunt the club.

    The days of being starved of success were over, and after 1997, Chelsea went won the League Cup a season later. The FA Cup followed again in 2000.

    Up until 1997, Chelsea had never won a major trophy at Wembley, either. When they won the FA Cup in 1970, it was done in a replay against Leeds United at Old Trafford.

    Now they have won a total of nine major trophies at the Home of Football (if we're including Community Shields).

    Oh, and did we mention Roberto Di Matteo's opening goal of the 1997 FA Cup final that came after just 42 seconds? It's always worth another look.

Low: March 8, 2008, Barnsley 1-0 Chelsea

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    When we look back at 2007/08, it was a season of massive highs and equally devastating lows for Chelsea.

    Jose Mourinho was sacked as Chelsea manager for the first time in September 2007, which caused a divide on the terraces.

    Given everything Mourinho had delivered, fans were split on whether the Special One should have lost his job.

    That he was replaced by Avram Grant—a relative unknown by comparison—just added to the woes.

    Grant actually came close to making history with Chelsea, though. Not only did the Blues finish just two points behind champions Manchester United in the Premier League, but they also reached the Champions League final under his guidance.

    Had it not been for unfortunate slip in the penalty shootout, John Terry would have scored the winning spot-kick against United to seal Chelsea's first European Cup.

    So Grant had a positive influence in that regard. Then again, he was the manager who oversaw the Barnsley debacle, when Chelsea lost 1-0 in an FA Cup quarter-final to the Championship strugglers.

    It was Kayode Odejayi's header that proved decisive at Oakwell, coming just after the hour mark.

    Despite having over £100 million worth of talent on the pitch that day, Chelsea couldn't find a way back into the game and the holders were dumped out of the FA Cup.

High: January 9, 2011, Chelsea 7-0 Ipswich Town

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    Talk about an emphatic victory!

    Chelsea were completely rampant when Ipswich Town visited Stamford Bridge in the third round of the FA Cup in January 2011.

    The Blues scored in seven goals as they pummeled their Championship opponents with a fine display of attacking football.

    This was Chelsea with the brakes firmly off.

    Daniel Sturridge got the ball rolling—strangely, it took 33 minutes for the first goal—before Salomon Kalou was quick to add a second.

    Carlos Edwards scored an own goal just before half-time. Nicolas Anelka and Sturridge then made it four and five respectively soon after the interval.

    Never one to be outdone, Frank Lampard scored goals six and seven in the 78th and 79th minutes.

    Both goals summed Lampard up perfectly. His first was a piledriver from the edge of the box before he ghosted into the six-yard area to connect with Branislav Ivanovic's cross to tap in the final goal of the game.

    Chelsea were the FA Cup holders at the time, and although they didn't successfully defend their crown that season, winning 7-0 was still a fine way to continue their recent form in the competition.

Low: January 24, 2015, Chelsea 2-4 Bradford City

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    This fourth-round defeat against Bradford City is still very raw when we consider Chelsea's FA Cup disappointments.

    It only happened last season, so as the Blues get set to face MK Dons at the same stage of the FA Cup this time around, their loss to the Bantams should serve as a timely reminder for how things can go disastrously wrong against lower-league teams.

    Chelsea were cruising at Stamford Bridge. They were 2-0 up heading into the break, but when Jon Stead pulled one back for the visitors just on 41 minutes, an unlikely comeback was starting.

    It took another 34 minutes for Bradford to equalise. When they did, Chelsea collapsed spectacularly.

    At 2-2 with just 15 minutes remaining, Bradford did the unthinkable and took the lead through Andrew Halliday.

    For those watching, we were expecting Chelsea to snatch something to at least earn a replay. After all, Jose Mourinho had thrown on Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Willian. Added to that, Chelsea were cruising to the Premier League title.

    It didn't happen, and in the 90th minute, Mark Yeates scored Bradford's fourth to seal an emphatic victory that will go down as one of the biggest cup upsets in recent memory.

    Mourinho rarely lost matches at Stamford Bridge, but he did so this time against League 1 opponents.

High: January 10, 2016, Chelsea 2-0 Scunthorpe United

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    In terms of the scoreline and performance, this victory over League 1 Scunthorpe United was fairly routine for Chelsea.

    The Blues hardly broke a sweat and seemed to be going through the motions. It certainly wasn't a classic by any stretch.

    We're talking about this game for different reasons, though. We're talking about this game because of Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

    A half-time substitute, the then-19-year-old had a massive impact on this game. He played with youthful exuberance, and after struggling for opportunities under Jose Mourinho, he seems to have made an impact with his new manager Guus Hiddink.

    Loftus-Cheek will also remember this game for a long time; it's the game in which he scored his first Chelsea goal.

    That's the sort of boost all the youngsters at Stamford Bridge need—to watch one of their peers break into the first team and start scoring goals that decide the outcome of matches.

    The midfielder's 68th-minute strike doubled Chelsea's lead after Diego Costa had earlier put them ahead. It was cool finish too, hinting at what we can expect from him in the years to come.

     

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.