Luton 2-3 Chelsea: Blues battle into quarters after Abramovich news
Romelu Lukaku scored the winner to secure Chelsea's place in the FA Cup quarter-finals with a battling 3-2 win at Luton, after Blues owner Roman Abramovich announced he was selling the club.
Abramovich confirmed he had put Chelsea up for sale, saying the decision is "in the best interest of the club" before kick-off and Thomas Tuchel's side started slowly on the pitch on Wednesday.
Saul Niguez cancelled out Reece Burke's second-minute opener against a much-changed Blues side, but Harry Cornick restored Championship side Luton's lead in the first half at Kenilworth Road.
Timo Werner equalised after the interval, before teeing up Lukaku with 12 minutes left to ensure Chelsea's place in the last eight, which will be played on March 19.
Burke glanced a header into the top-right corner from Luke Berry's corner after just 102 seconds – the fastest goal Chelsea have conceded in all competitions this season.
Tuchel's side levelled things up after 27 minutes when the ball fell kindly for Saul to curl into the bottom-right corner, before substitute goalkeeper Harry Isted expertly denied Saul, Kenedy and Romelu Lukaku within a frantic four-minute period.
Luton regained the lead after Malang Sarr's unconvincing offside trap allowed Cornick in to finish past Kepa Arrizabalaga following Carlos Mendes Gomes' throughball.
Chelsea boasted 82 per cent possession in the first 15 minutes after the interval, but their reward did not arrive until the 68th minute when Werner poked past Isted after a superb Ruben Loftus-Cheek long pass.
Werner turned provider for the winning goal, when he found space inside the area and drilled across for Lukaku to apply the finish with a sliding tap-in.
What does it mean? Blues remain hunting domestic silverware
Chelsea, who had won just one of their last 13 visits to Luton, were unconvincing and conceded more than one goal in the first half for just the third time this season, having previously done so against Zenit and Liverpool.
But Tuchel's European champions recovered after the break as Luton failed to register a second-half attempt at goal after producing five in the first period.
The win kept Chelsea in contention for domestic silverware this season, after faltering in the EFL Cup final against Liverpool on Sunday.
Redemption for Rom?
Lukaku has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following an underwhelming performance against Crystal Palace and was subsequently dropped for clashes with Lille and Liverpool.
However, he delivered the crucial strike in the closing stages with his 15th goal in the FA Cup.
Since the striker's first goal in the competition in March 2014, no player has scored more times (joint-level with Kelechi Iheanacho on 15).
Loftus-Cheek slotted into an unfamiliar centre-back position, flanked by Sarr and Antonio Rudiger as part of Tuchel's three-man defence, and showed his versatility as he made a team-high two clearances (level with Reece James and Saul).
The England international was one of Chelsea's brightest creative sparks as well, despite playing at the back, as he registered game-leading figures for touches (105) and successful passes (80), one of which was his impressive assist for Werner.
Key Opta stats: Saul ends long wait
- Saul ended a run of 40 consecutive club appearances without a goal in all competitions since netting for Atletico Madrid v Cadiz in January 2021.
- Since overcoming Norwich on penalties in round three in 2017-18, Chelsea have won 20 of their 23 FA Cup games (L3), more than any other side.
- Since his debut for Chelsea in September 2020, Timo Werner has been directly involved 34 goals in all competitions (19 goals, 15 assists), more than any other player at the club in this period.
- Cornick scored his first-ever goal against a top-flight opponent, while his total of nine goals in all competitions this season is his joint-highest in a single campaign (also nine in 2019-20).
Chelsea, who find out their quarter-final opponents on Thursday, return to Premier League action at Burnley on Saturday, when Luton visit Middlesbrough in the Championship.