FA Cup: Higuain starts in Chelsea win, Spurs exit second domestic competition in four days

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How serious are manager Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea about making Gonzalo Higuain the striker that salvages their season? Well, he was signed on Wednesday and went straight into the starting lineup on Sunday.

Though he didn’t score, Higuain gave a decent account of himself with good movement against Sheffield Wednesday. And most importantly, Chelsea won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge to advance to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

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The Blues left superstar Eden Hazard out of the matchday squad and kept several regulars on the bench against the Championship mid-table denizens. Higuain started up top but still had more than enough service and talent around him, with Willian’s brace leading the attack, Bayern Munich target Callum Hudson-Odoi bagging the other goal and first-choice fullbacks Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso bombing forward as usual.

Gonzalo Higuain, right, and Chelsea made easy work of visiting Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup. (Reuters)
Gonzalo Higuain, right, and Chelsea made easy work of visiting Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup. (Reuters)

Shortly after Video Assistant Referee ruled against a penalty whistle initially drawn by Sheffield Wednesday, Azpilicueta drew a penalty when Sam Hutchinson stamped on his foot in a reckless challenge. Willian coolly converted in the 26th minute to open the scoring.

Hudson-Odoi’s sensational second touch helped him punch home the second goal in the 64th minute:

Willian added the final goal with a curling one-time finish thanks to a nice lay-off by Olivier Giroud, who had replaced Higuain a minute prior.

Higuain will need to get up to speed quickly as Chelsea is set for a tricky two-week stretch in February, facing Manchester City twice (once away in the Premier League, and once in the League Cup final) as well as a two-leg tie against Swedish side Malmo in the Europa League.

Crystal Palace dispatches sleepy Spurs

If you want how Tottenham’s afternoon at Selhurst Park went in video form, just watch this Kieran Trippier penalty miss (via SI/ESPN+):

Palace scored two goals in the first half and held onto the lead as Spurs offered little threat in a 2-0 loss on Sunday.

The hosts went up inside 10 minutes thanks to Connor Wickham, who scored his first goal for the club in 799 days after a hard-luck run of injuries the past couple years. Jeff Schlupp won a ball in from Joel Ward and attacked the right side of the Spurs box, and while his initial shot was blocked by goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga, Wickham was there to nudge it home:

Andros Townsend added the second on a penalty in the 34th minute, burying the spot kick and then neglecting to celebrate against his former club.

In truth, Spurs’ setup indicated they weren’t overly interested in going for the throat. Having already been eliminated from the League Cup semifinals on Thursday against Chelsea, and with star striker Harry Kane still over a month away from returning, only 10 or so regulars even made the trip to South London.

It makes sense in a vacuum; Tottenham has a tough but not insurmountable Champions League Round of 16 tie against Borussia Dortmund next month, and also a spot in Europe’s top competition to protect. Spurs sit four points above Chelsea in third in the Premier League table, and Palace, for its part, is only three points clear of the drop zone.

So no, there wasn’t much reason for Tottenham to expend its resources in the fourth round of the FA Cup. But yes, Crystal Palace — and especially Wickham — have every reason to celebrate their victory.

Joey Gulino is the editor of Yahoo Soccer and moonlights as a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @JGulinoYahoo.

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