Chelsea are through to the quarterfinals of the FA Cup after defeating Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 at Molineux.
After a laboured first half in which the Premier League leaders failed to assert any kind of authority over the struggling Championship side and with Antonio Conte reluctant to make changes, it seemed the game was headed for a stalemate and a replay.
It was going to take something special to break the deadlock, and in the 65th minute that moment arrived when Pedro snuck in behind the Wolves' defence to head home a delightful Willian chip. Diego Costa made sure of the result doubling Chelsea's advantage a minute from time.
Victory away from home on a day when other Premier League sides suffered ignominious defeats to lowly opposition is not to be sniffed at.
Costa rediscovering his scoring touch after 413 blank minutes was a big plus as is Pedro's appetite for goals in the competition, which this season has been stated in every round Chelsea have played.
Conte fielded an alien-looking back three of Kurt Zouma, John Terry and Nathan Ake and the trio lacked the cohesiveness and understanding of regular trio Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Gary Cahill.
Elsewhere, Eden Hazard didn't look remotely interested for much of the contest, which begged the question would Chelsea have had more of a cutting edge earlier had Conte opted to play one of the younger players with a point to prove instead, such as Ruben Loftus-Cheek or Michy Batshuayi.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Conte deserves credit for fielding a strong starting XI. Costa and Hazard hadn't been expected to start and although neither player looked fully enthused about participating in the contest, both made crucial contributions that helped see Chelsea through. Conte's ongoing reluctance to make changes when a game is stagnating remains a source of frustration -- that said, the result makes criticism of the Italian's methodology somewhat trite.
Player ratings (1-10, 10 = best, players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Asmir Begovic, 6 -- Made an important save very early in the game, but was largely untroubled thereafter which made his erratic clearances difficult to comprehend. A lack of game time can't help, but on this showing, unless Thibaut Courtois becomes unavailable, it's hard to see Begovic getting many more appearances this season.
DF Kurt Zouma, 6 -- Similar to Begovic, there was a rustiness about Zouma's play, particularly in the first half, which was unnerving to watch. Grew in stature after the break and played to his strengths of mobility and physicality.
DF John Terry, 7 -- Dependable skipper's performance from Terry whose playing time these days is pretty much restricted to the FA Cup. Craft and guile compensated for aging legs and Wolves lacked the nous to expose this limitation.
DF Nathan Ake, 6 -- Struggled to impose himself on the game early on and lacked the positional awareness of Terry. Improved markedly after the break.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- Moses was Chelsea's only bright spark in an insipid first half and he caused problems throughout the game on the right flank. If the wing-back's final ball had matched his enthusiasm, the Blues might have profited more handsomely than they did.
MF Pedro, 8 -- Conte continues to deploy Pedro at left wing-back in the FA Cup and given the Spaniard has delivered four goals and two assists to date, it's a move that's worked out well for both player and manager. Defensive negligence can therefore be excused, but against higher calibre opposition the outcome of this might be less favourable.
MF Nathaniel Chalobah, 7 -- This season has seen Chalobah edge ahead of his academy graduate rivals as the kid most likely to establish himself in Chelsea's first team. Whether or not that will actually happen remains to be seen, but the 22-year-old will have done his credentials no harm at all with another robust performance in the Chelsea midfield.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 8 -- Oozed class playmaking for Chelsea. Cultured passing was a joy to watch.
FW Willian, 7 -- Willian's capacity for drifting in and out of games has seen him fall out of favour with Conte for Premier League matches. Again against Wolves, the Brazilian international flattered to deceive for long periods and looked frustrated with it -- but then one deep cross was all it took to find Pedro and Chelsea were in front and it was all smiles again.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Cut a disinterested figure in the first period and offered Chelsea absolutely nothing going forward. Perhaps Conte poked him in the eye at half-time, because there was a flicker of life after the break in particular during the build-up to Pedro's goal.
FW Diego Costa, 8 -- A surprise but welcome selection. Costa hustled and harried Wolves' backline throughout the game and was rewarded with the goal he needed to end his drought.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, NR -- Replaced Pedro in the 73rd minute and immediately shored up the left flank.
MF N'Golo Kante, NR -- Replaced Willian and brought much needed energy to the side.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, NR -- Replaced Hazard for the final few minutes but had insufficient time to make an impression.