The Last Days Of The Roman Empire: For Sale Chelsea Sneak Past Luton

Luton give Chelsea an uncomfortable time on the pitch, while the club endures uncertainty off it
21:13, 02 Mar 2022

Today, Roman Abramovich announced he is selling Chelsea after 19 years at the helm, leaving the club’s future looking uncertain. Tonight, their present looked uncertain at times as Luton Town gave them a very tough game at Kenilworth Road. Chelsea progressed to the quarter-final of the FA Cup by virtue of a Romelu Lukaku winner in a 3-2 victory. They live to fight another day in this competition, though what happens next long-term at Stamford Bridge is anyone’s guess.

Chelsea’s previous game, their penalty defeat to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final, lasted for over two hours without a goal being scored. Against Luton, they only had to wait two minutes for the scoreline to change. Unfortunately for the away side, the goal was scored against them. Reece Burke left Malang Sarr behind at a corner and ran across goal to glance the ball past Kepa Arrizabalaga. The already-thunderous Kenilworth Road crowd reached fever pitch as their side took an unlikely lead.

They looked like good value for it as their direct play caused Chelsea untold problems. A free kick was headed down towards Burke again, though this time Kepa was alive to the danger. Dan Potts also managed to win his aerial battle and direct a header at the Chelsea goalkeeper. Luton were the more comfortable side during an opening in which the ball spent a lot of time in the sky.

Hatters stopper Jed Steer injured his ankle when coming to collect a Saul Niguez pass, and had to be stretchered off. His replacement Harry Isted endured a busy half, but performed excellently. There was a confident low save to deny Saul, a long dive to keep out Kenedy and a solid stop to reject Romelu Lukaku. The youth team product acquitted himself brilliantly.

He couldn’t quite keep everything out though, as Saul drew Chelsea level. Timo Werner lost the ball after a brilliant run, but the Spain midfielder arrived and elegantly side-footed it into Isted’s net from the edge of the box. It felt like normal service had resumed. 

Luton had not finished springing surprises though. Sarr misread the run of Harry Cornick, and the former Bournemouth forward left him behind before sliding a confident finish past Kepa. The Hatters went into the half-time break leading, and deservedly so after a spirited display.

Chelsea could not make a dent in Luton in the opening throes of the second half. Thomas Tuchel replaced Kenedy and Calum Hudson-Odoi with Christian Pulisic and Harvey Vale in hope of reinvigorating his side. Luton responded by switching goalscorer Harry Cornick for veteran Cameron Jerome and Luke Berry with Harry Campbell.

Ultimately it was a player who had started the game that made the first telling impact of the half. Ruben Loftus-Cheek split the Luton defence and Werner was on hand to provide an instinctive finish. The German has found goals hard to come by as of late, but you wouldn’t know it from the natural finishing on display here.

There were still nervy moments from the reigning European champions. Sarr had endured a torrid night, and his lose passing almost sent substitute Danny Hylton clear. But tensions would be eased when Lukaku slid home a Werner cross to get the goal he has so desperately wanted, and a goal that Chelsea desperately needed.

Nathan Jones’ side looked like their race had been run as the clock ticked down. Finally, Chelsea were finding the rhythmic dominance that had eluded them for three quarters of this fantastic game. The Championship side can carry a lot of pride from this display with them into their play-off push. If The Hatters continue to work as tirelessly and effectively as this, they might even find themselves in the same division as tonight’s opponents next season.

In the evening’s other FA Cup fifth round ties, Southampton comprehensively beat West Ham United 3-1. Romain Perraud put Saints into the lead with a peach of a thirty-yard strike. David Moyes’ men battled back through Michail Antonio, but parity was short-lived. A James Ward-Prose penalty took the home side back into the lead, before Armando Broja capped off an entertaining evening at St Mary’s with an injury-time third.

Liverpool welcomed Norwich City to Anfield as they continued to chase the quadruple. Takumi Minamino took full advantage of a rare start with a first-half brace. Jurgen Klopp’s men looked set to saunter home until Lukas Rupp bulged the net with a thunderous strike fifteen minutes from the end. The Merseyside club took no chances, bringing on Sadio Mane and Luis Diaz to try and see out the game. The four-trophy dream lives on though, as the home side held on for a 2-1 victory.

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