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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower