Ferguson no match for Chelsea this time

Preston NE 0 Chelsea 2: Sir Alex's advice unable to help Preston's new manager as Anelka and Sturridge see Cup holders ease through

A misty Lancashire lunchtime and an opposing manager called Ferguson held no terrors after all for the FA Cup holders, who sauntered into the last 16 of the competition despite leaving out half a dozen of the players who had demolished Sunderland the previous week. For much of the time it must have felt like a training game in leafy Surrey as Chelsea knocked the ball around among themselves while doughty locals bellowed "hit him!" or "get stuck in!"

Preston, 17th in the Championship, had to get close enough first and rarely managed that. Darren Ferguson's new team were reduced mainly to counter-attacking, the irony being that Chelsea's opening goal from Nicolas Anelka came from just such a break of their own. They never lived as dangerously as Liverpool had done here in the third round a year ago, when Fernando Torres did not make the tie safe until the final minute. Yesterday Chelsea's second, from Dean Sturridge, arrived right at the start of the second half and effectively killed a game that was already looking destined for the grave.

Sir Tom Finney's proud old club now have only two wins in 13 games to their name, the start of that run having caused the panic-stricken sacking of Alan Irvine. His successor said he had consulted Sir Alex about Preston's potential but not about playing Chelsea. It was difficult to see what difference any further insight would have made, given the gulf in quality between the two sides and Ferguson Jnr was happy enough with his new team, who had suffered a 4-2 defeat in his first match at Bristol City. "No complaints," he said. "I thought we gave Chelsea a game. They're a fantastic team with world-class players. Our players had taken confidence from the first half but two minutes later the whole place is deflated."

He may want them to play more football but Preston's few opportunities tended to come from deep crosses beyond the far post. Not until John "Beats" Parkin came on after an hour did they go more direct. When Neil Mellor, once of Liverpool, joined him for the latter stages, it was like a heavyweight tag team charging at John Terry and Alex, who were only briefly discomfited.

"A very professional performance," said Ray Wilkins, doing media duty for Carlo Ancelotti. "We scored at good times in the game. Preston get the ball in the box with a bit of quality."

Chelsea's first goal followed a rare Preston attack. Deco took possession and fed Michael Ballack, who in turn put Anelka in to score his 11th goal of the season past a goalkeeper unsighted by his centre-half Sean St Ledger. That should have been the second goal but Mike Dean, the referee, had denied them 10 minutes earlier. Frank Lampard was clattered as he slid a pass to Yuri Zhirkov, whose cross was turned in by Florent Malouda as Dean whistled for the original foul. By waiting only a few seconds, the official could have allowed justice to be done.

Malouda was on at that early stage as a substitute for Juliano Belletti, who had injured a knee. Deco, having started wide on the left of a 4-1-2-3 formation, dropped back to become the holding man, but Preston rarely looked capable of taking advantage. Their what-if moment came just before half-time. The right-back Michael Hart lofted a long ball into the penalty area, where Hilario, not as tall a goalkeeper as Petr Cech, had to stretch to the full to push it out; Darren Carter could do no better than slice it high and wide.

Any encouragement that the home team and a capacity crowd could derive from a near-miss was squashed within two minutes of the restart. At Bristol City, Preston conceded three goals from set-pieces and now there was another; Malouda swung over a corner, Terry's header was pushed out by Andy Lonnergan and Sturridge, the scorer of two goals in the last round against Watford, grabbed another.

Chelsea were not inconvenienced by taking off Lampard and replacing him with Joe Cole, who is desperate for a run of games in World Cup year. There will be plenty more opportunities for him as Chelsea embark on a run of five games in 15 days.

Attendance: 23,119

Referee: Mike Dean

Man of the match: Anelka

Match rating: 6/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'