Teenage midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s first senior goal settled a niggly FA Cup third round tie as Chelsea ground past Scunthorpe 2-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Diego Costa’s fourth goal in three games handed Chelsea the perfect start, only for Guus Hiddink’s men to drift off and allow League One side Scunthorpe to turn the tie into a scrap.
The 19-year-old Loftus-Cheek’s composed finish secured Chelsea safe passage to the fourth round, though, after Scunthorpe were denied a second-half penalty.
Chelsea will hope England Under-21 star Loftus-Cheek’s tidy performance points to a coming of age, after limited past opportunities.
And interim Blues boss Hiddink will be heartened by hit man Costa taking another step forward in his fight for top form.
Total first-half control caused Chelsea to switch off and coast to a 1-0 advantage at the break.
Costa sneaked goal-side of the defence to turn home Branislav Ivavonic’s cross and hand the hosts the perfect opening.
Oscar curled wide from 16 yards instead of doubling the lead, doing an injustice to his step-over and link return ball from Costa – the pair combining well after their set-to in training this week.
Pedro then spurned another fine Chelsea chance, scuffing his finish after a lose first touch. Willian’s smart step-over drew the defence after Fabregas’ raking pass set Ivanovic away down the right.
Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta’s tangle set Williams tearing away down the right, but Kurt Zouma pulled off the perfect sliding cover tackle to deny the winger a one-on-one.
Suddenly emboldened, Scunthorpe pressed again, only for Kevin Van Neen’s cross to evade Neal Bishop.
Hiddink took off Oscar at half-time in favour of youngster Loftus-Cheek, but still the craved impetus failed to arrive.
Chelsea were handed another let-off when referee Craig Pawson denied Scunthorpe a penalty despite Ramires tangling with Van Neen in the box.
Rubennnnnm— Eden hazard (@hazardeden10) January 10, 2016
Ramires appeared to tread on the Scunthorpe forward’s foot, but the appeals went unanswered.
Bishop and Stephen Dawson hounded Costa into losing possesion in his own half, only to be hauled back for a foul on the Spain striker.
Finally Chelsea killed the tie, the long-overdue second goal courtesy of the highly-rated Loftus-Cheek.
Ramires broke up play and fed Willian, who set Azpilicueta free on the overlap. Costa’s selfless near-post run drew the defence and Loftus-Cheek swept home.
Van Neen dragged a free-kick just wide in a bid to catch Begovic cold at his near post, before Scunthorpe were lucky not to concede a penalty of their own, Loftus-Cheek’s progress in the box seemingly stopped by a stray hand.
Elsewhere, Harry Kane was delighted to earn Tottenham a replay as his last-gasp penalty rescued a 2-2 FA Cup third-round draw against Leicester at White Hart Lane.
Christian Eriksen’s early opener was cancelled out by a header from Marcin Wasilewski as the first half finished level. Shinji Okazaki put the away side ahead for the first time just after the break but Kane’s late spot-kick made sure there would be a reunion between the two Barclays Premier League sides.
Know more about Sport360 Application
Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud scored as Arsenal started their FA Cup defence by coming from behind to defeat Sunderland 3-1 in the third round on Saturday.
Arsenal were joined in round four by Premier League title rivals Manchester City, who won 3-0 at Norwich City, but Southampton and Newcastle United were both eliminated and West Bromwich Albion survived a huge scare.
Sunderland took a 17th-minute lead at the Emirates Stadium through Jeremain Lens, but Joel Campbell equalised eight minutes later before second-half goals by Ramsey and Giroud gave Arsene Wenger’s men victory.
Premier League leaders Arsenal are seeking to become the first team to win three FA Cups in a row since Blackburn Rovers between 1884 and 1886.
A side showing five changes fell behind when Lens picked Laurent Koscielny’s pocket and fired home, but minutes later Theo Walcott teed up Campbell to tuck away the equaliser.
Substitute Ramsey made it 2-1 in the 72nd minute after a one-two with Hector Bellerin and Bellerin then teed up Giroud for Arsenal’s third goal four minutes later.
Manchester City strolled through at Carrow Road, where Sergio Aguero put the visitors ahead in the 16th minute with a driving run and emphatic shot.
Aguero set up 19-year-old strike partner Kelechi Iheanacho for City’s second goal on the half-hour and substitute Kevin De Bruyne wrapped up victory 12 minutes from time.
Southampton and Newcastle both fell at the first hurdle, but could at least console themselves that they were beaten by fellow Premier League teams.
Wilfried Zaha’s 68th-minute goal gave Crystal Palace a 2-1 win at Southampton, while Troy Deeney punished a loose back-pass from Georginio Wijnaldum to give Watford a 1-0 home victory over Newcastle.
It's a thumbs up from Super Al! pic.twitter.com/LZCJACzJVU— Crystal Palace FC (@CPFC) January 9, 2016
West Brom manager Tony Pulis had James Morrison to thank for an equaliser in the fifth minute of stoppage time that prevented his side from losing at home to second-tier Bristol City.
After substitute Saido Berahino gave West Brom a 67th-minute lead, goals from Jonathan Kodjia and Kieran Agard put Bristol City in charge, only for Morrison to secure a 2-2 draw at the death.
Aston Villa’s wretched season continued as they were taken to a replay by fourth-tier minnows Wycombe Wanderers following a 1-1 draw at Adams Park — their 16th successive game without victory.
Eleven points adrift of safety at the foot of the Premier League table, Villa took a 22nd-minute lead through Micah Richards, only for Joe Jacobsen to equalise with a penalty early in the second half.
Villa captain Richards went over to speak to frustrated Villa fans at the final whistle and manager Remi Garde said: “It was brave of him to do that.
“As professionals, we have to face our responsibilities — not only Micah, me and all the players.”
Bolton Wanderers, bottom of the Championship and at risk of bankruptcy, narrowly escaped succumbing to the day’s biggest shock as Darren Pratley’s scrappy 87th-minute goal earned them a 1-1 draw at fifth-tier Eastleigh.
The lowest-ranked team left in the tournament, Eastleigh had gone ahead in the 51st minute via an own goal by Bolton’s French defender Dorian Dervite.
Manchester United face lower-league opposition later on Saturday in the form of third-tier cup specialists Sheffield United, who reached the League Cup semi-finals last season and the FA Cup last four the year before.
Liverpool were taken to a replay by fourth-tier Exeter City on Friday, Brad Smith’s 73rd-minute equaliser sparing Jurgen Klopp’s youthful side from an ignominious exit.
Hulk has been the standout player in Russia during his time there and has regularly been linked with big money moves to the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal. Could 2016 be the year he finally parts ways with Zenit?
– Premier League: January transfer window watch
– Serie A: January transfer window watch