Chelsea vs. Scunthorpe: Winners and Losers from FA Cup
Chelsea progressed to the FA Cup fourth round after a 2-0 victory over Scunthorpe United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Branislav Ivanovic's early cross from the right forced a melee in the box, and the ball bounced in, with Diego Costa claiming it but Scott Laird appearing to take the last touch. In the second half, Ruben Loftus-Cheek made it two, converting a Cesar Azpilicueta cut-back and securing passage.
"We scored the first goal, dominated the first half," Ivanovic told BT Sport's live broadcast after the match. "We controlled the game."
Here, Bleacher Report picks its winners and losers from the encounter.
Winner: Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea
Finally—finally—Ruben Loftus-Cheek gets a good go, and look how he repaid the faith. A second-half goal to seal the victory was a just reward for his strong showing.
The movement and strike were Frank Lampard-esque; he held his run in the box, collected the cut-back and converted from close range. It’s the sort of goal Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic are fairly unlikely to score, therefore underlining the different type of option RLC can offer.
It’s his first FA Cup appearance, and he’ll never forget it. Loftus-Cheek is a big winner here, not only because of his impact on the pitch but because of the opportunity he may just have carved out for himself after seizing his first chance under Guus Hiddink.
Winner: Guus Hiddink, Chelsea
Guus Hiddink faced some criticism on social media ahead of the game after revealing a strong Chelsea starting XI. Why, some asked, were none of the bright young prospects being given a go?
But, as uMAXit Football’s Jack Rathborn outlines: “Hiddink played this beautifully; FA Cup [the] only chance of silverware, couldn't afford slip-up and still gave [Ruben] Loftus-Cheek & Kenedy game time.”
Loftus-Cheek scored after entering the fray at half-time, Kenedy received a chunk of playing time, and Bertrand Traore made a fleeting appearance. The youngsters played their part, while the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa—the senior heads in the side—produced good performances to carry the team through.
The Blues are miles behind Europe’s best and stand little chance of succeeding in Europe, while they’re out of contention for every other trophy bar the FA Cup. Hiddink is right to try to maximise his own chances of silverware, and he balanced this one brilliantly.
Loser: Nemanja Matic, Chelsea
Nemanja Matic didn’t play against Scunthorpe in any capacity, but he still lands in the loser’s column here. Why? Because Guus Hiddink’s starting XI and substitutions suggest Matic really is languishing in the depths of the Dutchman’s doghouse.
Cesc Fabregas is on the verge of exploding into form after successive strong performances, while both John Obi Mikel and Ramires have been selected to partner with him instead of the Serbian over the last two weeks. Hiddink had to make a half-time change against Scunthorpe when Oscar was withdrawn, and Stamford Bridge welcomed Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the fray, not Matic.
There’s no doubt both Matic and Fabregas drastically underperformed in 2015, but while Jose Mourinho persevered with the former, Hiddink has shown preference for the latter. It leaves Matic in an uncomfortable, murky role as we begin 2016.
Winner: Kevin Van Veen, Scunthorpe United
Scunthorpe United have two live-wire attackers capable of making things happen, and while Luke Williams showed tenacity and poise on the ball, it’s Kevin van Veen we will single out here as the most dangerous man in yellow.
The striker did a good job of shouldering The Iron’s attacking load, making himself available as an outlet and having the confidence to turn and push forward. He won territory for his side Diego Costa-style.
His penetrating runs had Chelsea’s all-star defenders scampering backward. One particular surge in the second half forced Ramires to foul him in the box—only for the referee not to award a penalty when he should have.
“I don’t think he will remember me,” Van Veen said of Guus Hiddink to the Daily Mail ahead of the game, referring to the time when he was in PSV Eindhoven’s youth system and Hiddink was the coach. Well, he might just remember you now, Kevin.
Winner: Diego Costa, Chelsea
Some top-level strikers can struggle to find their groove against lower-league defenders due to the vastly different style of football they play. Simply put, some are intimidated and blunted by overaggressive or firm approaches.
But Costa thrives on that, and in truth, he’s just the sort of player you want leading your line against a team that will contrive to make things as difficult as possible for you. His directness and aggression were just what Chelsea needed, and he forced the ball into the final third, creating chances as a result.
The first goal may or may not have been his, but he did cause chaos in the box and create the confusion that led to the goal. He continued in this vein throughout and gave Scunthorpe’s defensive line a forgettable afternoon.