Woeful Chelsea escape Bees' FA Cup sting

Posted by Phil Lythell

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesJohn Terry wasn't at his best in his first game under Rafa Benitez, but played the entire game as Chelsea equalised late.

After a weekend of shocks in the FA Cup, Chelsea can be grateful that their name will be in the hat for the draw for the fifth round.

Norwich City became the first top-flight side to lose to nonleague opposition since the 1980s and Queens Park Rangers were humiliated at home by Milton Keynes Dons of League One while Tottenham were dumped out of the competition by Leeds United.

Chelsea escaped a similar fate by the skin of their teeth. An FA Cup season that is regaining some of the glamour of old seemed likely to claim the scalp of the holders and European Champions until a rare moment of class from the troubled Fernando Torres late in Sunday's 2-2 draw with Brentford.

-- Torres saves Chelsea

Griffin Park bore witness to a riveting Cup tie that had all the home fans and neutral onlookers watching in delight. For those in the blue end of the ground, the scene was one of horror. A West London derby between clubs that had not faced each other in a meaningful contest for 63 years should have seen all 22 players sweating blood for the cause.

Instead, it appeared that only those clad in red and white took the required motivation on to the field with them, Chelsea having left their game faces in the dressing room.

The first-half display from Rafael Benitez's team was nothing short of abysmal. Chelsea lost almost every battle wherever it occurred on the pitch with the commitment from the Bees exceeding those of the visitors by some distance. The lackadaisical approach ensured the Blues were unable to play at their own tempo, Brentford hustling their illustrious opponents off the ball with alarming regularity.

The boggy conditions certainly hindered the Premier League stars, though they were the same for both sets of players and judging by some of the excellent passing moves put together by the hosts, the pitch was far from unplayable.

On the occasions when Chelsea did enjoy some possession, their use of the ball was woeful. The obsession with hitting long direct passes from the central defenders to the centre forward -- be it Torres or Demba Ba -- has become the scourge of Chelsea's recent tactical approach. Benitez is keen to make the transition from defence to attack as rapid as possible but the right tools are needed if the tactic is to prosper.

Torres is not a traditional target man and does not thrive under the type of service that asks him to use his physique. Perhaps someone should tell Benitez that Didier Drogba is no longer at the club. Equally, the passes themselves are wide of the mark more often than not with the rusty John Terry guilty of several aimless deliveries. Against a team playing their football two divisions further down the pyramid, surely Chelsea should have been utilising their quick feet and close control to break down the opposition rather than venturing down route one.

The presence of Ross Turnbull did nothing to alleviate any concerns, either. The Englishman is a willing squad member though it is hardly revelatory to say that he is far below the standard that should be expected of a Chelsea goalkeeper. His indecision caused more than a few nerves to be shredded among the back four, his dithering culminating in Terry forced into playing a back pass in the absence of Turnbull advancing toward the ball. It meant the concession of an indirect free kick inside the penalty area, though thankfully the opportunity was wasted by Brentford.

Having created the best chances, Brentford deservedly went into the break in the lead yet there was always the perception that Chelsea would come out firing in the second half. Indeed, Chelsea's attitude straight after halftime improved immeasurably with the introduction of Juan Mata sparking the Blues into greater dynamism. The energy levels increased and movement off the ball began to create problems for Brentford. However, although Oscar leveled the scoreline rather swiftly after the resumption, the expected deluge never materialised.

There was a 10-minute period in which the Blues dominated and should probably have scored through Mata, but once the Bees had weathered the storm it became an even contest once again.

The one positive from the performance was that Chelsea were able to draw on their reserves of skill to net an excellent equaliser in the closing stages. Torres took his goal magnificently following a key intervention from Ba, indicating that there might be the potential to play the two together more often should the situation demand. The visitors could also have been awarded a penalty at the death for a clear handball by Harlee Dean, though a Chelsea win, however welcome, would have felt like daylight robbery.

Chelsea were dreadful but they are still in the Cup. After this weekend of upsets that cup has to be seen as half full. Though only just.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell

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