Kepa Arrizabalaga saves Chelsea again after stopping a penalty from Plymouth’s Ryan Hardie late in extra time as the Blues come from behind to beat the League One side in the FA Cup fourth round.
The 6,000 travelling Argyle fans were ecstatic after Macaulay Gillesphey’s early header from Jordan Houghton’s cross.
Cesar Azpilicueta’s delightful flick late in the first half deservedly restored Chelsea’s parity.
In extra time, Marcos Alonso put the Blues ahead before Kepa Arrizabalaga saved Hardie’s tame penalty kick.
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Chelsea were deserving winners after registering 41 shots and 20 corners, but they were pushed all the way by a tenacious and hard-working Plymouth side.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel was absent from the dugout after testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday, and the hosts were led by assistant Arno Michels.
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A Memorable Afternoon For Argyle
Many Plymouth supporters had to leave for Stamford Bridge at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning, but the effects of the long journey were quickly replaced by feelings of unbridled joy thanks to Gillesphey’s stunning opener.
Chelsea, who had made a strong start to the game, appeared rattled for a brief moment, but quickly regained their composure and twice came close to a quick response.
From Romelu Lukaku’s lay-off, Mateo Kovacic was denied by the crossbar, before Callum Hudson-Odoi hit the same spot on the goal frame with a close-range header.
Plymouth had to rely on the woodwork once more seven minutes before halftime when Kovacic hit the inside of the post, but their luck ran out moments later when Azpilicueta deftly steered Mason Mount’s low delivery past Plymouth goalkeeper Michael Cooper.
In the second half, it was also one-way traffic. The stretching Lukaku was inches away from prodding home Hakim Ziyech’s low cross, while Azpilicueta was denied a second goal by an offside flag.
Mount was also denied by Cooper’s brilliant one-handed save, which he followed up by brilliantly tipping Kai Havertz’s close-range effort past the post.
Chelsea’s place in the fifth round appeared to be secured after Alonso’s calm finish, but there was still time for a late twist.
Malang Sarr threw the ball away cheaply before making a frantic tackle on Hardie, who got up and took the penalty. His effort, on the other hand, was inadequate, allowing Kepa to make an easy stop low to his left.
Despite this, Plymouth manager Steven Schumacher, who is in charge of only his 10th game as a manager, will be ecstatic after watching his team almost force a shootout with the European champions.
Joe Edwards, who made a fantastic recovery run and block to deny Havertz in the second half, exemplified Argyle’s work ethic.
Tuchel is set to join the Chelsea squad in Abu Dhabi for the Club World Cup later this weekend.