Chelsea eased into round four of the FA Cup with a 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues dominated the first half but could not find a goal, with Cesc Fabregas seeing his penalty saved after half an hour.
But they did take the lead five minutes after half-time through Alvaro Morata, after good wide play from Callum Hudson-Odoi. Morata then got his second of the game 10 minutes later from another Hudson-Odoi cross, header into the bottom right corner of the net.
With one eye on Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham Hotspur, Maurizio Sarri made nine changes from the team which drew 0-0 with Southampton on Wednesday, with only David Luiz and Alvaro Morata remaining.
Of those nine changes, seven fringe players game into the starting XI including teenagers Hudson-Odoi and Ethan Ampadu.
But how did they get on?
Willy Caballero was starting his fifth game of the season for Chelsea but had very little to do.
Though Forest had a number of shots throughout the match, they rarely tested Caballero with the Argentine only having to make on easy save in addition to catching crosses.
Despite not doing anything wrong, the goalkeeper did not have much opportunity to show what he can do.
Handed a start with Cesar Azpilicueta rested, Davide Zappacosta made a good claim as to why he can still challenge to be Chelsea’s number one right-back. But at the same time, it was a good chance to put himself in the shop window having been linked with a move away just 18 months after signing.
The Italian had the first shot of the game, a low driven effort from the edge of the area, after cutting in from the right, which was spilled by Luke Steele. Zappacosta continued to test the Forest defence with his crosses into the box and should have had an assist in the first half but Alvaro Morata could only head his cross straight at the goalkeeper.
Zappacosta was the more attacking of the two full-backs in the first half and linked up well with Ethan Ampadu and Ruben Loftus-Cheek going forward until the latter had to be substituted due to injury.
First shot of the game, spilled by Luke Steele, cutting inside. Testing crosses into the box, one should have been converted by Morata. More attacking of the two full-backs having a go with shots and crosses. Tested Steele with another shot.
In for Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen had one of his better games this season, finally looking closer to the player who started regularly for Antonio Conte last year.
Partnering David Luiz at the heart of the Chelsea defence, the Dane showed composure on the ball and was happy to push forward to help start attacks, not just relying on the safe option.
In the first half, Christensen did not have to do too much defensively, but was on hand when he was called upon, with a good block early on to stop a cross from getting into the Chelsea box.
Complacency started to seep into his game after half-time, with some misplaced passes but it was an overall impressive performance for the Dane – something he really needed.
Some Chelsea fans have been called for Emerson to be their starting left-back for a period given to poor form of Marcos Alonso.
And the Italian did himself no harm with a good performance against Forest. Emerson linked up well with Hudson-Odoi in the first half and Eden Hazard in the second, getting forward and pushing high on the opposition full-back.
Emerson also went close with a free-kick inside 15 minutes, though his effort from the right was just over the crossbar.
Late on in the second half, Emerson was pushed forward to left-wing as Sarri looked to add more defensive stability to protect Chelsea’s lead.
Playing in what is likely to be his last game at Stamford Bridge, and possibly England, Cesc Fabregas captained Chelsea while playing in the technical midfield role.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 5, 2019
And the Spaniard showed why he is still wanted at Chelsea by Maurizio Sarri, dictating play with some good passing both conservative and testing for the Forest defence.
However, Fabregas’ game will be marred by a poor penalty miss after half an hour, spurning Chelsea’s best opportunity to take the lead.
The Spaniard stuttered his run up and was therefore unable to generate enough power to beat Steele, who got down to his right well to save.
The second half was slightly more quiet for Fabregas, however, all was forgotten as he was eventually taken off with five minutes to go to a standing ovation and very clearly said his goodbyes to Chelsea fans and players, all-but confirming his exit.
Chelsea fans will be used to seeing Ethan Ampadu playing in defence but for Wales the teenager has often featured in midfield.
And Sarri decided Saturday’s game against Forest was a good occasion to test him in midfield for Chelsea, with the Welshman starting in N’Golo Kante’s right-sided role.
The 18-year-old looked as confident as ever on the ball, happy to get forward to join in in attack, bossing around his team-mates.
Ampadu also put himself about defensively, happy to drop and provide cover for David Luiz and Andreas Christensen while putting in some wonderful tackles. He’s certainly no Kante yet, but the Welshman may just have shown Sarri he can be an adequate back up.
The young man everyone was looking at, Callum Hudson-Odoi once again showed exactly why Bayern Munich are trying to sign him and Chelsea fighting to keep him.
Hudson-Odoi got forward a lot early on starting on the left, constantly looking to cut inside for a shot. But his real impact came on the right after Eden Hazard had to replace the injured Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Driving at the Forest defence a lot more in the second half, the 18-year-old showed good feet to beat his man before drilling a low cross into the box for Morata to tap in and give Chelsea the lead.
2 – Callum Hudson-Odoi is the first teenager to assist two goals in a single competitive fixture for Chelsea since Scott Sinclair versus Leicester in October 2007 (League Cup). Sparkling. pic.twitter.com/LBOVauSKwW
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 5, 2019
The youngster was not done there, getting his second assist of the game with another cross to Morata, this time for the Spaniard to head in and double Chelsea’s advantage.
Sandwiched between the two assists was a good goalscoring opportunity, as he twisted and turned his way through the Forest defence but his shot was saved by Steele.
The teenager was rightly hailed for his performance, with Kevin Kilbane commenting on the potential move away from Chelsea.
“[Hudson-Odoi] is one of the best young players in world football right now, and he’s not going to get any game time, so why wouldn’t he think of moving somewhere else?” he said on BBC’s Final Score.
Hudson-Odoi also proved his defensive game, getting back to help Zappacosta in the second half, showing Christian Pulisic he may have some competition next season – unless Bayern do get him, that is.