Chelsea 3-0 Newcastle United: Batshuayi brace clinches Chelsea's route to round four

A Michy Batshuayi brace helped Chelsea ease past Newcastle United in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.

The Belgian - who could still leave Stamford Bridge this month - took advantage of two excellent counter-attacks, first tapping into an empty net just after half an hour before seeing an effort loop into the net via Jamaal Lascelles moments before half-time. 

Marcos Alonso added a third in the second half with a wonderful free-kick.

Batshuayi brace gives Chelsea 2-0 half-time lead

The visitors - set up in a 3-5-2 formation - began the better side, happy to sit back and soak pressure before passing to ball into the channels for Dwight Gayle and strike partner Matt Ritchie to chase. Gayle would have found himself through on goal had Jonjo Shelvey's early pass not been short. Instead, it was intercepted by the impressive Andreas Christensen and Chelsea broke away. 

Chelsea soon began to threaten, though, and had their first effort when Eden Hazard's free-kick hit the wall. Christensen then flicked on a corner from the Belgian but nobody was on hand to convert.

A mix-up at a Chelsea goal-kick then allowed Gayle in, but he instead decided to backheel the ball to Ritchie and the ball was intercepted. Rafael Benitez and his side have been criticised this season for their defensive style and seeming unwillingness to go forward, but there was no sign of that in this game; perhaps allowed more freedom by there only being a cup run at stake. Shelvey met Ritchie's cross to force a good save from Willy Caballero before the resulting corner was almost met by Lascelles. 

Another individual on the receiving end of stick recently has been Batshuayi, but the striker gave the Blues the lead following a wonderful move in a first half that had been devoid of true quality. Chelsea's back three switched the ball from left to right, Pedro picked up the ball in midfield and his sumptous through-ball found Hazard. The Belgian attempted to tee up Alonso whose shot was poor, but the ball found its way to Batshuayi who had a simple tap-in. 

The goal settled a few nerves at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have struggled for form since the turn of the year, with last weekend's 4-0 win against Brighton & Hove Albion a nice release. Conte's side began to flow in their usual style, the front three roamed with Newcastle at times almost chasing shadows. Batshuayi would have been in again had Lascelles not made an excellent interception. 

Antonio Rudiger then came close, moving froward from his right-sided centre-back position. The German cut inside onto his left foot and his bending effort appeared destined for Karl Darlow's bottom corner, only to drift inches wide. 

Chelsea seemed comfortable and led by two just before half-time. Another devastating counter-attack began when Henri Saivet lost the ball in midfield, Hazard was freed forward and he played in countryman Batshuayi, whose shot looped over Darlow via Lascelles. 

Newcastle had nothing to lose, destined for a cup exit before the break, which allowed them slightly more freedom. They constantly threatened at set-pieces and both Shelvey and Chancel Mbemba drew good saves from stand-in goalkeeper Caballero. 

Alonso free-kick rounds off victory 

Chelsea began the second half more dominant in possession than they had been previously and Pedro almost handed them a three-goal lead. Rudiger's cross was cleared only as far as the Spaniard, but his left-footed shoot flew over the bar. Darlow then had to make a magnificent save to deny Alonso's volley that had been directed goalwards thanks to a deflection off Javier Manquillo

Although they led by two, Chelsea never seemed to have a comfortable advantage, but a lack of ruthlessness from the visitors meant they failed to capitalise on many occasions. Shelvey headed well over from 10 yards when he should have done far better, and Saivet had a speculative effort from distance that drifted wide. Benitez introduced Joselu to change the impetus, replacing the ineffective Gayle. But this failed to make a difference - Newcastle remained poor in the final third.

Chelsea's latest signing Ross Barkley was preparing for his Chelsea Stamford Bridge bow when Alonso made it three, curling a delightful free-kick over the wall and into Darlow's top corner from 25 yards. Barkley replaced Hazard who left the field to a standing ovation. 

Pedro drew two good saves from Darlow in the latter stages before he was replaced by debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi - one of the England under-17 World Cup winners. 

The 17-year-old showed some excellent touches but was unable to cap his first appearance in the senior team with a goal as the game edged towards a conclusion.