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Chelsea rallies to advance in FA Cup amid off-field crisis

AP – Facing a crisis off the field, Chelsea was in a spot of bother on it early yesterday when the team fell behind not just once but twice to a lower-league opponent in the FA Cup.

In the end, the most expensive player of the Roman Abramovich era bailed Chelsea out. Romelu Lukaku completed the comeback with a 78th-minute winner as the European champions beat second-tier Luton 3-2 away to reach the quarterfinals.

Other teams advancing from the fifth round were Liverpool, which beat Norwich 2-1, and Southampton, a 3-1 winner against West Ham, in all-Premier League matchups.

Chelsea’s players took the field at Kenilworth Road barely an hour after Abramovich made his stunning announcement that he was looking to sell the London club after 19 years in control.

Saul Niguez equalised in the 27th minute, only for Luton to regain the lead in the 40th when Harry Cornick ran clear of Chelsea’s defence to sidefoot home a finish.

Timo Werner grabbed Chelsea’s second equaliser in the 68th minute, before crossing for Lukaku to slot in with 12 minutes left. “There was some noise today around the club, of course, so it was not so easy to focus,” Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said, “but we did very well I think”.

“In the very short term,” Tuchel added, “for us as a team, staff and players, hopefully (it will change) not too much. Maybe even it will change nothing. But the situation is now out there and a big situation.”

Back in action four days after beating Chelsea in the League Cup final, Liverpool stayed on course for an improbable quadruple of trophies with a second win over Norwich in 11 days.
Jurgen Klopp fielded a heavily rotated team featuring 10 changes and one of them, Takumi Minamino, scored both goals – in the 27th and 39th minutes.

Liverpool reached the FA Cup quarterfinals for the first time under Klopp, whose team is second in the Premier League and on course to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals.

Norwich scored through Lukas Rupp in the 76th.

Southampton also rang the changes – nine in total – against West Ham but still came through, with substitute Armando Broja and James Ward-Prowse scoring.

Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring. PHOTO: AP

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