LONDON (AP) — Chelsea avoided exiting a second competition in a week as it progressed to the fifth round of the FA Cup with a 3-0 victory over Newcastle on Sunday.
Michy Batshuayi’s double and Marcos Alonso’s free kick ensured Chelsea bounced back from its midweek League Cup semifinal defeat to Arsenal.
It was only a second win — inside 90 minutes — in eight games for Chelsea in what has been a testing January. Various reports have suggested the club is looking to recruit a new striker, but it was the sparingly used Batshuayi who delivered on this occasion.
Having managed just one goal in its three previous home games, Chelsea was once more lacking in fluidity at Stamford Bridge and was reliant on the individual brilliance of Eden Hazard to break down its well-organized opponent.
Newcastle looked the more likely to score in the opening stages but became a victim of its growing confidence as Chelsea took the lead with a clinical counter-attack.
Pedro played a precise pass over the top to release Hazard down the left, he calmly waited for Alonso’s run on his inside and the wing-back squared for Batshuayi to tap in from close range after 31 minutes.
Chelsea’s sloppiness in possession gifted Newcastle multiple chances to level but stand-in goalkeeper Willy Caballero made five saves to preserve the home side’s lead before Batshuayi struck again on the stroke of halftime.
Pedro released Hazard once more, enabling him to play his Belgium teammate through on goal, before a large deflection off Jamaal Lascelles saw Batshuayi’s shot loop over Karl Darlow and give Chelsea a scarcely deserved two-goal lead at the break.
Alonso sealed the victory with a trademark free kick into the top corner from 25 yards (meters) out with 18 minutes to go, allowing Chelsea a comfortable finale and Conte the opportunity to rest Hazard and N’Golo Kante ahead of a return to Premier League action against Bournemouth on Wednesday.
Premier League leader Manchester City will attempt to join Chelsea in Monday’s fifth round draw when it faces Championship team Cardiff later Sunday.