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Chelsea make FA Cup their priority

Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrates scoring his team’s second goal to secure the 2-0 win. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek celebrates scoring his team’s second goal to secure the 2-0 win. Photograph: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

With hopes of retaining the Premier League title fast fading, Chelsea have apparently shifted focus and priorities to the FA Cup, moving into the fourth round of the competition with a win over League One side Scunthorpe United.

The Blues took an early lead at Stamford Bridge, Branislav Ivanovic’s cross diverted into the net by Diego Costa. Scunthorpe goalkeeper was excellent throughout the game, keeping out efforts from Cesc Fabregas and Pedro. However, But Chelsea broke the down Iron’s dogged defense and killed the game when Ruben Loftus-Cheek found the net from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross to make it 2-0.

In the Premier League scenario, Chelsea’s season is all but over. They are 14th on the table, 19 points behind leaders Arsenal. And as far as the UEFA Champions League is concerned, they face a difficult game against Paris St-Germain in the last 16.

So, the FA Cup perhaps represent the London club’s best chance of winning silverware this season.

Caretaker manager Guus Hiddink, who found himself in a similar position at the club after the sacking of Luis Felipe Scolari and won the FA Cup in 2009, alluded to how important he thinks the competition is for Chelsea this season in his team sheet. A near full-strength team against a side 45 places lower in English football’s pyramid was what he fielded.

Last year’s Premier League winners threatened to run ragged over their opposition, with Fabregas and Pedro being denied by Daniels, and Oscar shooting just wide with the goalkeeper beaten. But Hiddink’s side didn’t dictate the play as much as they would have wanted, as Scunthorpe ended the first half strongly seeing Luke Williams come close to bursting through the Chelsea defence only for the door to be shut by a despairing Kurt Zouma.

The visitors rued a penalty not given. When Kevin van Veen was clipped by Ramires in the area, referee Craig Pawson waved play on.

In the end, the home side’s greatly superior quality shone through. Azpilicueta got to the byeline, pulled the ball back for 19-year-old academy graduate Loftus-Cheek to score his first Chelsea goal and scupper any hopes of a Scunthorpe revival.

After the game, Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink said: “I was happy with the result. The Premier League is difficult to get the fourth place, but the other projects are the FA Cup and the Champions League

“It is a decent result against a very strong opponent, especially in their set-pieces. We started well, but we forgot to kill it off.

“We had high pressing, but we were a little bit arrogant in our finishing.”

Scunthorpe United manager Mark Robins was frustrated by the penalty decision: “Chelsea made it very difficult for us and early on we gave the ball away too much but after that I thought we were good.

“It is a nailed-on penalty and you come to places like this and you want to get the decisions, but sometimes you don’t.”

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