On a weekend of giant killings, Chelsea were twice behind in this West London derby but forced a draw with 2 moments of class.
In a frankly gutless first half performance on a pitch that was more suited to Sunday League than Premier League, Brentford made the Blues look ordinary, at best.
I’m not even convinced we took Brentford for granted, we were just hapless. On paper, the starting XI would not have disgraced any Premier League team but the defending Champions of Europe looked vulnerable to the counter attack and the Bees were anything but cowed into submission.
After Ashley Cole’s cross caught Torres on his heels and Oscar dragged his right foot shot wide, John Terry and Ross Turnbull contrived to give Brentford their first clear opportunity of the game.
Turnbull got too close to Terry, (who looked nervy and was inevitably short of match fitness) whose backpass Turnbull was forced to cling onto as Clayton Donaldson lurked with intent.
Referee Moss determined that Donaldson had not been denied a clear goal scoring opportunity and awarded an indirect free kick, which Jamie Forrester blasted into row Z.
The Blues dominated possession but lacked even a spark of creativity, with Marin and Bertrand virtually anonymous and Oscar largely subdued (Moses’ return from the African Cup of Nations to give him a break cannot come soon enough).
Forshaw shot just wide from inside right for Brentford but with 3 minutes to half time, they took the lead. Forrester robbed Lampard and got his shot away.
Whilst the shot was well struck, it was at a good height for Turnbull and should have been pushed well away from the danger zone. Instead, Turnbull could only parry the ball to Marcello Trotta, who finished well from 9 yards.
Turnbull’s kicking and dominance of his area was suspect throughout the game and overall, he is way short of the level required to shadow Petr Cech: a recurring theme.
Whilst this was theoretically a good opportunity for some cheap goals, Frank Lampard looked jaded. In the absence of Mikel, Romeu and Luiz or a change of formation, we have little choice but to flog a willing but ageing horse.
Benitez broke with his usual substitution policy and hooked the woeful Marin for Mata at the start of the second half.
Oscar was moved to the right of the creative 3, with Mata behind Torres. Whilst the quality of the opposition was not the highest, Mata quickly established his pre-eminence and dragged us out of mediocity.
Despite the surface and a swirling wind, the tempo was higher and the equaliser came within 10 minutes.
Oscar picked up the ball near the edge of the penalty area, waltzed past 2 challenges and curled the ball into the top corner with the outside of his right boot. Tired he may be but class is permanent.
Instead of killing the game off, the Blues reverted to a slower tempo that Brentford looked comfortable enough defending against.
On 71 minutes, the home side took the lead for the second time. Donaldson’s through ball played in substitute Adeyemi and with the Chelsea defence caught flat footed, Turnbull brought him down.
Referee Moss pointed to the spot and to the relief of the Blues fans behind the goal, only showed Turnbull a Yellow Card.
Forrester stroked home the penalty to give Brentford genuine belief that they could shock the holders.
Forced into a response, Chelsea ultimately delivered. Lampard’s overhead kick was saved, Bertrand missed a good chance, heading wide from Azpilicueta’s (on for Ivanovic) cross but the equaliser was coming.
Ba replaced Bertrand (who does not offer anywhere near enough offensively in the creative 3) and had been on the pitch less than 5 minutes when he scrapped for the ball just outside the penalty area, feeding Torres. Our number 9 rarely seems to score when it really matters but his right footed curler found the top corner to ensure a replay. It was however his only significant contribution over 90 minutes.
The Blues might even have found a winner when Mata’s cross struck Dean’s hand: a clear penalty was denied. Given our earlier good fortune, it would have been harsh on Brentford who deserved another 90 minutes back at Stamford Bridge.
Benitez’ record of predictable and borderline bizarre substitutions was maintained. Mata for Marin was the correct (if obvious) decision.
Ivanovic was below par. He was robbed a couple of times and looked leggy but the decision to replace him with Azpilicueta when 2-1 down with 11 minutes to go looked absurd.
Finally Ba, given less than 10 minutes, replaced Bertrand. Having equalised on 55 minutes, a replay may have been averted had he been brought on soon after to assert our superiority.
This was anything but a great performance and the replay is not ideal with a tired, depleted squad but as the FA Cup is probably our best opportunity of silverware this season, at least we’re still in the hat.
And yes: it could have been worse. Just ask Norwich, Spurs, QPR, Aston Villa, Liverpool….
Follow Chris Davies on Twitter: @chrisdaviescfc