Demba Ba bagged a debut brace as Chelsea romped to a convincing 5-1 victory at Southampton.
The Senegalese man equalised after Rodriguez put the Saints ahead, before Victor Moses grabbed the second on the stroke of half time. Three in the second half means that the defending champions roll into the Fourth Round of the competition.
A competition which Chelsea hold so dearly in their hearts, having won it four times in the last six years. And for the 4,592 travelling away fans, it was a captivating match with plenty of goals.
No player has had more success with this competition than Ashley Cole, who has won it a magnificent seven times. It was fitting to kick-start Chelsea’s defence by giving the left-back the armband in his 279th Chelsea start.
Chelsea have never beaten the Saints in the FA Cup in seven attempts, but have not lost in 90 minutes in the Cup since 2008, a magnificent record stretching back 1764 days.
And with 13 spots in the league table separating the two sides, the quality of Chelsea simply outshone.
But not without Southampton hope. 22 minutes in was when the deadlock was broken by the home side, when Puncheon was given too much space to find Rodriguez, who duly netted past Ross Turnbull.
Would this be another upset, like against QPR in midweek? Fortunately for the fans, not this time.
12 minutes later and Chelsea were level. Demba Ba displayed a poacher’s instinct, latching on to a Juan Mata shot. The Spaniard’s effort would probably have trickled into the net, but Demba Ba was never going to turn down the opportunity to grab his first for his new side.
Another man who looked like there was a goal in him today was Victor Moses. The Nigerian did indeed put Chelsea in front with moments left of the first period, balancing an Ashley Cole pass well, before half-volleying past Artur Boruc.
Ivanovic scored the crucial third for the Blues seven minutes after the restart, and it was another assist from Mata. The 23 year old lifted a ball into the area, and the mighty Serbian powered the ball into the net.
It has been a remarkable season for Chelsea’s defenders, who have already scored 13 goals between them. But with so little defending to do, they could be forgiving for trying to join in on the fun and games.
Still, the onus was still on the attackers, and Demba Ba looked hungry as he took his second expertly. Outstanding play by the mesmerising Mata and then Hazard meant the ball was laid on a plate to Ba, who had to tap in with pressure on him.
In scoring twice in the first 61 minutes in his debut, Ba has already clocked more than Fernando Torres did in his entire first season for Chelsea, a remarkable 1151 minutes. Indeed, the last player to score two goals on his Chelsea debut was Kerry Dixon in 1983.
Frank Lampard entered the fray to deafening support from the away end, and when the chance of a penalty came for the European Champions, Lampard was desperate for it to be his.
With several spot-kick takers at the Club, and with Ba needing one more for his hat-trick, there was no sympathy from the midfielder, who netted his 193rd goal for Chelsea, becoming joint-second highest goalscorer. Simultaneously, he also equalled Tamblings’ FA Cup record of 25 goals.
It was a heartfelt celebration from Lampard, who appeared to scream “I love you” to all the fans, before passionate thumping the Chelsea badge. This goal means that the 33 year old has now been involved in nine goals (scored five, assisted four) in his last eight FA Cup appearances for Chelsea.
The two star men could have combined for Chelsea’s sixth of the afternoon, but Lampard failed to control the ball properly from a Ba pass.
The damage had already been done. The question that remains is how much damage will Chelsea inflict on themselves by allowing their talisman midfielder to leave.