Nottingham Forest were unable to conjour up any FA Cup magic at Stamford Bridge this afternoon, as they were comfortably beaten 2-0 by Frank Lampard’s Chelsea.
The visitors haven’t beaten Chelsea since 1997 and their losing run has now extended to seven consecutive games. Callum Hudson-Odoi proved the catalyst for the Blues, scoring the opening goal and providing the assist for the second, as the Premier League side earned their place in the fourth round of the FA Cup.
Forest will likely be left feeling bitter after their first taste of VAR, as they had a penalty ruled out and a very tight offside decision, correctly, go against them.
Adding a little bit more spice to the occasion were the Derby County links in this Chelsea side, with Lampard, Fikayo Tomori and Mason Mount all playing key parts in the Rams’ play-off run last year.
Both managers opted to ring the changes, with Tobias Figueiredo the only Forest player to reprise his role from New Year’s Day and Lampard making nine alterations to his Chelsea side.
It still looked a tough task for the Reds against an XI that included the likes of Ross Barkley, Hudson-Odoi, and Jorginho.
Things got even harder for Lamouchi’s men after just five minutes as the hosts took an early lead through Hudson-Odoi. After some slick passing play, the 19-year-old collected the ball on the right-hand side of the box, cut inside a helpless Yuri Ribeiro and fired the ball in at the near post.
Chelsea looked in complete control through the early proceedings but nearly handed the visitors a golden opportunity to go level in the 22nd minute. Tomori brought Alex Mighten down in the Chelsea box after a Forest break but VAR correctly ruled no penalty, as the impressive teenager was offside in the build-up.
That near-miss appeared to drive Lampard’s men on to push for a second and they nearly had one in the 28th minute. Reece James whipped a brilliant ball from the right-hand side but Batshuayi’s ugly header went well over the target.
They doubled their lead five minutes later, however, as Hudson-Odoi cut inside from the right once again and Forest goalkeeper Jordan Smith could only palm his strike into the path of Ross Barkley for an easy tap in.
At 2-0 up and cruising, Chelsea looked in complete control but Mighten nearly forced his side back into the game. The forward drove into the box at a back-peddling Christensen and fired a low cross straight across the goalmouth but disappointingly for the Reds, there was no one there to tap it in.
Batshuayi then had a chance to make it 3-0 for the Blues but he couldn’t get enough on another excellent cross from James.
Chelsea continued to exert pressure after the break but were denied twice by the hands of Smith, the second save a full-length effort to tip Barkley’s header onto the post.
Forest looked to have forced their way back into the game with a little over 20 minutes to go but Ryan Yates’ header from a Joao Carvalho free-kick was ruled out for offside, with VAR showing it was very tight.
On a particularly disappointing afternoon for the striker, Batshuayi had another chance to extend Chelsea’s lead moments later but skied Hudson-Odoi’s well-placed cross.
To their credit, Forest didn’t stop running and got into some good areas in the last ten minutes but were unable to create any real goalscoring opportunities.
Another fingertip stop from Smith right at the death ensured the difference stayed at just two goals. Still, a comprehensive defeat for Forest but the performance of Mighten, who looked their brightest spark throughout, an undoubted positive.
Lamouchi’s side can now focus all their attention on joining Chelsea in the Premier League come May.
FULL-TIME: Chelsea 2-0 Nottingham Forest