Sturridge celebrates after his intricate opener
As I took my seat in the same seat there was a different atmosphere. The familiar faces had been replaced by a new crop of Chelsea fans and the stern cynicism replaced by a naive optimism as the families flooded in. It was of course FA Cup 3rd round day and a chance to put the poor Premier League form behind us. Chelsea's faltering title bid has brought many questions to the fore of late but it was the third round tie against a depleted Ipswich side that served up many answers and more particularly a captivating display from Danny Sturridge. It wasn't just the goals of Sturridge though that captured the imagination of the Stamford Bridge crowd but also his maturity and movement that constantly threatened what admittedly was a substandard Ipswich defence. Sturridge's liveliness injected an enthusiasm into the Chelsea attack unseen in previous games. His lively runs behind the Ipswich backline caused the Tractor Boys countless problems whilst two spectatcularly ruthless and aesthetically pleasing finishes summed up what was a magnificent performance. The two goals brought his total to seven goals for the week after his earlier 5 goal haul against a Tottenham reserve side three days before. Sturridges excellent performance has now made him a frontrunner to start against Blackburn in a must win Premier League game on Saturday but that decision would have been made harder after an emphatic return to form for Nicolas Anelka.
Anelka scored one and should have had another but like Sturridge it was the way he played that was so encouraging. Whether dropping deep to create space for Sturridge to run into or whether making runs in behind the Ipswich defence Anelka was a thorn in the side of Ipswich all day long and the hub of many of Chelsea's attacks. Another encouraging performance came from two more of the youngsters that Ancelotti entrusted in. New Stamford Bridge darling Josh McEachran looked assured in midfield and dictated the play with ease and grace. Mceachran controlled the game from the deep lying playmaker role that Ancelotti has chosen to employ him in but only fully grew into the game in the second half when pushed further forward and looked a constant threat breezing threw the Ipswich midfield routinely. Patrick van Aanholt's liveliness down the left also gave Carlo Ancelotti a timely reminder of his abilities and with the flagrant ineffectiveness of Florent Malouda, van Aanholt could be an option as a winger. Ramires also put in a great shift and continues to warm himself to the Stamford Bridge faithful.
It must be reminded however that these encouraging signs came against a horribly off form Ipswich side but Chelsea once again showed their prowess in The FA Cup as they begun their attempt at equaling an 111 year old record of winning the FA Cup three times running and perhaps more importantly lifted some pressure of Carlo Ancelotti whose name was sung constantly throughout the second half..