Chelsea had to dig deep to beat Luton in the FA Cup fifth round Photo: AFP soccer
Japan Today-By Steven GRIFFITHS
Chelsea survived a major FA Cup scare to reach the quarterfinals with a 3-2 win at Luton just hours after Roman Abramovich put the club up for sale on Wednesday.
Thomas Tuchel’s side took to the Kenilworth Road pitch for the fifth round tie with their heads still spinning from Abramovich’s bombshell announcement.
The Russian billionaire has decided to sell Chelsea amid fears he could be sanctioned by the British government amid his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Abramovich, who is alleged to have close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, will give the net proceeds from the sale to victims of the Ukraine war, with his asking price starting at a reported £3 billion ($4 billion).
After his massive investment helped Chelsea win 19 major trophies in his 19-year reign, Abramovich admitted it had been “incredibly difficult” to give up the keys to Chelsea.
Fittingly, it was Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku who completed Chelsea’s escape act on the day the Abramovich era entered its final chapter.
Chelsea twice trailed against second-tier Luton before Lukaku bagged the winner in the closing stages to spare their blushes.
Abramovich sanctioned the club record £97 million deal that brought Lukaku from Inter Milan last year in the final blockbuster transfer of his reign.
Asked about the sale, Tuchel admitted it was impossible to imagine Chelsea without Abramovich.
“I can only think about Chelsea with Roman Abramovich. So it’s very hard for me. It hasn’t sunk in yet that this is going to stop. It’s a massive change of course,” Tuchel said.
“I don’t know as much as maybe you think. I’m not a CEO or member of the board. So, I’m very sure the club will speak to us and the players.
“I’m not so much worried because I still feel privileged and in a good place. I’m never afraid of change, and will focus on what I can influence, and this is staff and team.”
It was a much-needed victory for Chelsea after their agonizing penalty shoot-out defeat in the League Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley on Sunday.
Chelsea conceded a shock goal in the second minute as Reece Burke rose above Malang Sarr to glance his header past Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Tuchel’s side hit back in the 27th minute when Saul Niguez scored for the first time since his August loan move from Atletico Madrid.
Saul drilled a composed finish from the edge of the area after Timo Werner started an incisive counter-attack.
Sarr was at fault again in the 40th minute when he tried in vain to play offside and Harry Cornick sprinted onto Carlos Mendes Gomes’ pass to net Luton’s second goal.
Chelsea snatched an equaliser in the 68th minute when Werner controlled Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s superb high pass and slotted home for his first goal in eight games.
Lukaku has yet to repay much of that mammoth fee but he bagged his 11th goal of the season as he stretched to tap in Werner’s cross in the 78th minute.
Liverpool kept up their bid for an unprecedented quadruple as Takumi Minamino’s double sealed a 2-1 win against Norwich at Anfield.
Japan forward Minamino put Liverpool ahead in the 27th minute with a clinical finish from Divock Origi’s pass.
He netted again in the 38th minute, this time lashing home off the inside of the post, before Lukas Rupp got one back for Norwich in the 76th minute.
Having lifted the League Cup last weekend, Liverpool are firmly in contention for the Premier League and Champions League, with no English side ever winning all four prizes in one season.
“If you make 10 changes you can’t expect perfection. We are in four competitions, three left, because of the quality of the squad,” Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said.
Elsewhere, Southampton eased through with a 3-1 win against West Ham at St Mary’s.