Chelsea Beat League One Plymouth Argyle in Extra Time to go to the FA Cup Fifth Round.

Chelsea Beat League One Plymouth Argyle in Extra Time to go to the FA Cup Fifth Round.

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06 Feb 2022
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Nick
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 The scene in Thomas Tuchel’s living room could only be imagined. The German, who is anxious and demonstrative at the best of times, would have been in a state of complete chaos in this match.

After testing positive for Covid at home, Tuchel’s plans for a relaxing afternoon in front of the TV were quickly crushed as he saw his team suffer a seismic scare at the hands of little old Plymouth Argyle.

The League One team lead the European champions for 33 minutes, and the score remained level until the clock reached three digits, 106 minutes. Whether they were ahead, tied, or trailing, the underdogs never gave up and continued to build genuine chances to pull off a major upset.

In front of a raucous Shed End, striker Ryan Hardie missed a 115th-minute penalty.

In a Tuchel-like furious manner, Schumacher metaphorically kicked every ball on the touchline in only his 10th encounter as a manager. He wasn’t here to have a good time; he was here to win.

‘Schuey’s at the wheel,’ sung the 6,000-strong away end of their boss, whose fearless team gained confidence with each passing minute.

Those away fans, by the way, were fantastic. In the shed end, there was a sea of green, with some dressed up, some shirtless, and comedian Josh Widdicombe among them.

They sang nonstop and celebrated every block, tackle, and clearance as if it were a goal. They quipped, ‘Champions of Europe, you’re having a laugh.’ But this was no laughing matter, and as the second half progressed, fears of a shock-mounted, as did worry among Chelsea’s ranks.

After eight minutes, Macaulay Gillesphey, a former Newcastle academy player, put Argyle ahead with a glancing header to convert Jordan Houghton’s free-kick, a former FA Youth Cup winner at Chelsea.

‘For an academy player, the Youth Cup is like the World Cup… the peak,’ he stated last week. His was just one of several fairytale subplots in the Plymouth team, which included a lot of cast-offs who couldn’t quite make it at the highest level.

As a result, they all had something to prove, and they fought for this match as if their lives were on the line. Michael Cooper, a 22-year-old goalkeeper from Devon, was the best of the lot.

Yes, they were fortunate in some ways, with Chelsea hitting the post three times before Cesar Azplilicueta’s equalizer. But they didn’t allow that goal dampen their spirits, as the Pilgrims took turns making game-saving saves.

Captain Joe Edwards made a last-ditch block to stop Kai Havertz, and then Cooper acrobatically stopped Mason Mount’s shot that was heading for the top corner. Chelsea kept pounding on Plymouth’s door, led by Arno Michels in the dugout, but it was slammed shut and they were pushed into extra time.

Chelsea brought on £150 million worth of quality in Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Marcos Alonso, and Saul Niguez, while Schumacher intelligently used his five substitutes to inject fresh legs.

His substitutes didn’t make much of an impact until Alonso scored a close-range goal with the final kick of the first period of extra time. When teams fall behind in extra time, they frequently surrender or succumb. Plymouth is not one of them. They kept attacking and were so close to scoring a spectacular equalizer.

Hardie stole the ball from Malang Sarr and raced through on goal before being brought down by the defender. Hardie’s penalty in front of 6,000 of his fans was terrible, feeble, and an easy save for Kepa Arrizabalaga.

If only one could be a fly on the wall in the Tuchel household’s living room. His team made it through, but only by a hair’s breadth. But, as Tuchel’s assistant put it, it’s all about the end result.

 

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