Though they duly headed back north empty-handed, Huddersfield, players and supporters alike, had the traditional grand day out in London beloved of FA Cup minnows and for a gloriously unbelievable quarter of an hour at the start of the second half, were actually holding the world's richest team 1-1. Then reality, in the shape of the sublime Frank Lampard, set in and Chelsea are through to the quarter-finals, their dream of a four-trophy season still afloat.
Lampard's form, in his second game back after missing 10 matches with a thigh injury, was alone worth the train fare from Yorkshire. He scored the first goal, then the second, and set up the pass for the third.
Not content, he dominated the midfield as well as surging forward time after time to supplement the indifferent efforts of Claudio Pizarro, before trotting off 10 minutes from time to a standing ovation.
Chelsea, with a visit to Greece in the Champions' League on Tuesday and the Carling Cup final next Sunday, opted to rest a host of big names and offered a bench place for others.
Towards the end, in the space of a few minutes, the manager, Avram Grant, brought on Andriy Shevchenko, Michael Essien and Nicolas Anelka – £70 million worth of talent. Such was the nature of Huddersfield's task. They tackled it bravely and lost good-naturedly to a club 56 places above their lowly position in League One.
Their equaliser, out of the blue on the stroke of half-time, was greeted with a mix of delight and disbelief by the supporters who filled one end of Stamford Bridge, while radio men in the media zone were hysterical. Perhaps fortunately for Chelsea, the whistle blew for the interval soon afterwards and they were able to retreat, regroup and reassure themselves that they were capable of better stuff than they had managed in the first half.
With grizzled veterans such as Frank Sinclair, captain for the day on his return to a stadium where he played for seven seasons, and Robert Page deputed to deny this "lesser" Chelsea, it was always going to be a big ask.
Scott Sinclair grabbed his chance to show his stuff down the right, while Salomon Kalou, back from African Nations Cup duty with the Ivory Coast, kept Sinclair on the hop and Lampard just kept on driving forward, ably backed by John Obi Mikel and that rarity among the starters, Steve Sidwell.
Huddersfield's manager, Andy Ritchie felt, rightly, his team were "a little in awe" of the opposition in the opening half. "Some of our tackles could have been stronger," he said. Accordingly, Chelsea were invited to pour forward but could manage only one goal.
It came in the 18th minute, after a spell in which Sinclair's shot curled past Matthew Glennon but was cleared off the line by Robbie Williams.
Sinclair's next foray ended with a square pass along the edge of the penalty box. Lampard strode on to it, picked his spot and sidefooted his 10th of the season and his 100th for the club. Glennon soon pulled off a sprawling stop to deny Lampard a second before the visiting fans, who had been lustily cheering the winning of throw-ins and corners, were given a goal.
John Terry, out since before Christmas with a foot problem, had already cleared Nathan Clarke's hooked shot away from the line when it beat Carlo Cudicini as Huddersfield began to discover form and self-belief.
Even so, it came as a surprise to most of the 41,000 crowd when James Berrett's lofted pass was collected by Michael Collins, closing in from the left, and driven between Cudicini and his near post. "The goal gave us a real lift at half-time and for the first 15 minutes afterwards we looked very dangerous," said Ritchie. "But we must have annoyed them."
The annoyance manifested itself in Lampard's second strike of the afternoon. Mikel and Kalou were the architects, the first sending a fine ball forward, the second turning it into the stride of the advancing Lampard. Glennon managed to block the shot but Lampard was on a run, in every sense, in this Cup tie and he forced the ball home at the second opportunity.
Kalou and Sinclair had efforts disallowed for offside before Kalou wrapped up the win in the 70th minute. Lampard aimed a glorious ball from the centre circle which sent him charging in to cut inside the tiring Sinclair before scoring off Glennon's body.
Lampard, said the opposition's manager in admiration, "was top notch, super". So he was.Reuse content