Chelsea vs. Plymouth Argyle rating: Blues survive thrilling FA Cup tie as Kepa Arrizabalaga saves late penalty

LONDON — After 150 years, the FA Cup nonetheless finds itself with new tales to inform. Right here was a powerful fourth-round tie that lurched a method then the opposite, that merely wouldn’t persist with your preconceptions of how these video games had been supposed to finish.

A 2-1 win for Chelsea over League One Plymouth means that is maybe not one for the annals of this excellent competitors, however those that shivered by means of two hours of excessive drama at Stamford Bridge will always remember a match that resolutely refused to stay to the script.

Because the Chelsea misses within the second half of regular time and early in additional time grew ever extra preposterous, you could possibly really feel the inevitability of a Plymouth bolt from the blue, the basic story of cup upset. Marcos Alonso appeared to have spoiled that however irrespective of, the guests would rise once more, profitable a penalty with time operating out. Absolutely they had been about to take it to the shootout and win there? No. Kepa Arrizabalaga, as soon as a laughing inventory of a world’s most costly goalkeeper, denied Ryan Hardie a spot in FA Cup historical past.

It was the cruelest of endings for Plymouth, a reminder that whereas this competitors is adept at making desires into actuality, it’s no much less efficient at crushing them in probably the most dramatic of fashions.

Nobody may content material Chelsea didn’t dominate this contest however they by no means regarded solely relaxed; actually, it didn’t assist them that the 6,000 visiting Plymouth followers made sufficient of a racket to persuade that you simply had been in Dwelling Park, the rafters lifted off with chants of “in every single place they go Argyle are large.” Definitely, they regarded like giants once they decamped on mass to assault the Blues field for an early free kick.

Jordan Houghton’s supply was proper on the mark, giving his teammates a run on the ball that the Chelsea protection didn’t. Nonetheless, Romelu Lukaku may have carried out much more to maintain Macaulay Gillesphey from getting such a clear head on the ball, his flick throughout purpose flying previous a dumbstruck Kepa.

His tame defensive effort set the tone for an equally meek show for Lukaku on the different finish. He may actually argue that Chelsea weren’t taking part in to his strengths, Jordan Houghton and Dan Scarr had been going to be far tougher to beat on the air than with the ball on the deck. Equally there comes a time when a striker of his renown ought to have the ability to discover methods outdoors his consolation zone to affect a contest.

With Lukaku laboring, Chelsea discovered themselves in one thing of an infinite loop of the 92nd minute. Firmly parked on the sting of the Plymouth field, they spent many of the first half discovering ever extra imaginative methods to hit the body of the purpose. After a heavy contact by Lukaku Kovacic thumped an effort towards the bar, Callum Hudson-Odoi flicked towards the bar a cross by Hakim Ziyech, probably the most creative of these tasked with breaking down the guests wall.

Not that there was nothing to the Plymouth recreation past retreating to their 18-yard field and hoping. The strain utilized on the high of the pitch by Jordon Garrick and Luke Jephcott helped to gum up Chelsea assaults; by the point the ball reached the hazard space, the Plymouth defensive traces had been set. In the meantime, if any crew may complain of tough therapy and cynical fouls it was the Pilgrims, whose each counter assault appeared to attract them a free kick on midway off a despairing Chelsea leg.

If they’d held on till the interval, this tie may nicely have concluded in numerous vogue. Ultimately, nonetheless, the Chelsea strain informed. Numbers piled up on the appropriate flank earlier than Mason Mount crossed low to the close to publish, a flick of Cesar Azpilicueta’s trailing leg sufficient to lastly beat Mike Cooper.

Additional possibilities got here and went into the second half, Azpilicueta denied a backheel brace by an offside flag, the excellent Joe Edwards sprinting the size of the pitch to dam substitute Kai Havertz when the hosts discovered empty area following a Plymouth nook. Cooper dived acrobatically to his proper to push Mount’s shot over the bar. As these possibilities flew by, so did the burden of stress construct on Chelsea shoulders.

Plymouth for his or her half appeared liberated. They’d already achieved way over anybody may fairly have anticipated towards a crew assembled at a value of practically half a billion {dollars}. They attacked the closing phases with out concern, Ryan Hardie darting in behind however unable to fairly clip the ball excessive sufficient to take it over Kepa. Steven Schumacher’s aspect by no means regarded fairly like profitable the sport however equally they only about provided sufficient late on to make sure the strain on Cooper’s purpose was not insupportable.

As additional time wore on, a impartial couldn’t assist however see one other second of FA Cup magic on the cardboard. There was no proof that Plymouth may rating however is not that exactly the purpose. You had been anticipating the bolt from the blue, the second this tie would write itself into 150 years of historical past.

So this competitors’s capability to shock stays undimmed. Halftime in additional time was beckoning as Havertz darted down the left, chopping the ball again for fellow substitute Marcos Alonso to roll into the underside of the online. Abruptly, the VAR graphic burst onto the Stamford Bridge screens. Extra grist for the narrative mill? Not at present. 

That was that then. Chelsea, the crew who’ve mastered possession soccer as a defensive weapon below Thomas Tuchel, would throttle this contest within the remaining quarter-hour. Not within the slightest. Had the Blues head coach not been isolating as a consequence of a optimistic COVID-19 take a look at, he would have been seething on the touchline when Malang Sarr bundled Hardie over after his fellow defenders had let Plymouth’s No. 9 slip in behind. This was certainly the second this tie delivered. Kepa had different plans, although in reality he would have been extraordinarily disenchanted if he had conceded the spot kick as soon as he had guessed the appropriate means.

What might need been if the Chelsea goalkeeper had guessed mistaken, if Hardie had struck the ball larger or additional towards the nook? Maybe a shootout win for Plymouth, a spot in FA Cup historical past for Gillesphey, Schumacher and the remainder of this excellent crew? This recreation might not stay lengthy within the collective reminiscence of this competitors however that might be a disgrace. There have been few video games this season that delivered in such great vogue.

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