LONDON – Last season’s FA Cup runners-up Chelsea struck four times before the break to crush second-tier Hull City 4-0 and stroll into the quarter-finals at Stamford Bridge on Friday.
Willian bagged two and Olivier Giroud scored his first goal for the club since joining from London rivals Arsenal, while Pedro was also on target for Antonio Conte’s dominant side.
The night’s other fifth-round tie saw Leicester City also in action against Championship opposition, but having to work far harder for a 1-0 home victory over Sheffield United.
Jamie Vardy struck the only goal after 66 minutes – the fifth game in a row in all competitions he has been on target.
Leicester held on to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2012 when they were knocked out by eventual winners Chelsea – the last time the west London club won the Cup.
Willian needed only two minutes to give Chelsea the lead against Hull, curling the ball in with his left foot from the edge of the penalty area.
Cesc Fabregas sent Pedro away to make it 2-0 after 27 minutes, and Willian then used his right foot to devastating effect to skim a low shot past keeper David Marshall.
French international Giroud clipped in a neat finish from Emerson’s cut-back to make the second half academic.
With an eye on Tuesday’s Champions League last-16, first leg at home to Barcelona, Chelsea took their foot off the gas in the second half.
“It was great for us. The most important thing is that we are in the next round. Now we have to prepare for the game against Barcelona,” Conte, who rested Eden Hazard, said.
“You hope to always have a game that you can dominate. Our start was impressive. We started with great focus and concentration, will to score and wanted to go to the next round. I’m really pleased with the commitment of my players.”
After the Barca game, Chelsea face Manchester United and Manchester City in the league, and Conte said the confidence was back after a sticky patch.
“Now we have the right confidence again. But in the next two weeks we have to play massive games, and we must be strong – Barcelona, United and City. We are ready,” he said.
There are four more ties on Saturday, when 12-times winners Manchester United visit Huddersfield Town, while another all-top-flight clash sees West Bromwich Albion at home to fellow strugglers Southampton.
Third-tier Rochdale host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday and on Monday, runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City face third-tier Wigan Athletic in a repeat of the 2013 final surprisingly won by the Latics.