Brave Hatters go out of the FA Cup but give eight times winners Chelsea an almighty scare at Kenilworth Road

Reece Burke celebrates putting the Hatters 1-0 up against Chelsea this eveningReece Burke celebrates putting the Hatters 1-0 up against Chelsea this evening
Reece Burke celebrates putting the Hatters 1-0 up against Chelsea this evening
FA Cup fifth round: Luton Town 2 Chelsea 3

Luton Town's FA Cup adventure came to an end for another season as they were knocked out by Premier League Chelsea this evening, but boy did they push last year's finalists all the way in a wonderful tie at Kenilworth Road.

Ahead 2-1 at the break, with the home fans sensing something special was on the cards, the visitors, who are the current Champions League and World Club Cup holders, eventually showed their class the longer the game wore on, firstly equalising through Timo Werner, Belgian international Romelu Lukaku eventually winning it.

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The Hatters were more than just plucky competitors on the night though, giving their illustrious opponents an almighty scare, particularly during the first period, taking the fight to Thomas Tuchel's side from the first minute, never once looking overawed.

That was all done with a much-changed side too, boss Nathan Jones altering five from the 1-0 win over Derby County on Saturday, Dan Potts coming in as captain, while there were starts for Luke Berry, Carlos Mendes Gomes, Peter Kioso and Admiral Muskwe.

That meant James Bree, Kal Naismith and Allan Campbell dropped to the bench, with Elijah Adebayo and Henri Lansbury missing out completely due to their knocks picked up against the Rams.

For the Blues, Tuchel opted to start forward £97.5m summer signing Lukaku, with nine changes in total from the side who lost out 11-10 on penalties against Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final.

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His team was still packed with internationals though, as Kepa Arrizabalaga, who missed the deciding spot-kick at Wembley began, along with Jorginho, Werner, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Saul Niguez, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Kenedy and Malang Sarr, meaning just England international Mason Mount and Antonio Rudiger kept their places.

Looking to start fast and ensure they were still in the game, having been stung by two goals inside the opening 18 minutes in the fourth round tie at a deserted Stamford Bridge last season, the Hatters did better than that, much better.

Winning a corner on the left, Berry delivered it into the box as Reece Burke flicked it into the net via the inside of the post on just two minutes, sending Luton's already noisy support into utter delirium.

Muskwe put a header wide as Luton kept up their superb press, Chelsea's team of stars not really knowing what had hit them, with a number of misplaced passes.

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However, Luton were then hit by a huge blow on just 14 minutes, when a long punt forward saw keeper Jed Steer collapse in a heap, fortunately the ball running wide.

The stretcher was immediately called for as it quickly became apparent the on-loan Aston Villa stopper would play no further part, and with no James Shea on the bench, it meant Harrry Isted was called upon, the 24-year-old, having only played two Checkatrade Trophy games in his Town career, the last way back in October 2018, and those in front of a combined attendance of just over 2,000.

He had impressed in the development games at Hitchin Town this term, but facing an arsenal of Lukaku and co was a different assignment altogether, gaining some early confidence with a wonderful clipped pass out to Kioso and stopping Saul's close-range header.

The change naturally halted some of Town's early momentum, but Luton still worked a good chance on the left after Cornick's short throw, his deep cross was hung up invitingly for Potts at the back post, whose downward header was straight at Kepa.

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Close to going 2-0 ahead, the Hatters were then pegged back on 27 minutes, when a mistake by Gabe Osho saw the midfielder cheaply cough up possession in a dangerous area and the play was quickly transferred for on-loan Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul to coolly beat Isted

With Town wobbling slightly, unable to get out of their half, Isted was called upon to make two wonderful saves to keep it 1-1, first as Town were sliced open, he came rushing out of his goal to spread himself and just get enough on Saul's effort, to deflect for a corner.

Then after Tom Lockyer made a terrific block, Kenedy went for a blast that Isted athletically palmed behind, the keeper soon having the game of his life, getting down marvellously to keep out Lukaku's drive.

He almost came a cropper when rushing out to another ball forward, Lukaku crowded out, just, as when it looked like a matter of moments before Tuchel's side took the lead, Luton broke away to score again.

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Cornick timed his run perfectly to latch on to Mendes Gomes' pass though the middle and the Chelsea fan kept his nerve magnificently to slot past the advancing Kepa as Kenilworth Road erupted once more.

Muskwe's hopeful shot was easier for the Spaniard, while after the break, Saul tried his luck from distance, Isted confidently holding on as if he had been guarding the net for years.

It became apparent that the visitors would dominate large chunks of possession, with Luton hemmed in for long periods, Lockyer doing well to halt Werner's advances at the expense of a corner, Ruben Loftus-Cheek heading wide.

With the hosts starting to tire, Jones brought on Campbell and Jerome to add some much-needed legs, goalscorer Cornick and Berry going off.

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Try as they might though, the Hatters just couldn't contain their visitors, as on 68 minutes, Loftus-Cheek's deep ball into the area was over the head of Burke, Werner controlling in an instant and deftly flicking past Isted.

With 15 to go, Jones rolled the dice one last time, Hylton and Robert Snodgrass on, the latter making his Luton debut, Chelsea introducing England international Reece James.

The Blues made their class show with 12 minutes remaining though, a neat move unlocking the Hatters and Werner's cross was slid home by Lukaku from close range.

Town pushed to try and extend the game for a further half an hour, but they were unable to breach the Blues' defence again, as the Premier League side came through a far tough test than they might have expected to progress,

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Hatters: Jed Steer (Harry Isted 14), Peter Kioso, Amari'i Bell, Tom Lockyer, Reece Burke, Dan Potts (C), Gabe Osho, Luke Berry (Allan Campbell 62), Carlos Mendes Gomes (Danny Hylton 76), Admiral Muskwe (Robert Snodgrass 76), Harry Cornick (Cameron Jerome 62).

Subs not used: James Bree, Kal Naismith, Jordan Clark, Elliot Thorpe.

Blues: Kepa Arrizabalaga, Antonio Rudiger, Jorginho (C, Reece James 76), Romelu Lukaku, Timo Werner, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Saul Niguez, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi (Harvey Vale 62), Kenedy (Christian Pulisic 61), Malang Sarr.

Subs not used: Ngolo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Edouard Mendy, Ross Barkley, Dylan Williams, Lewis Hall.

Booked: Muskwe 67.

Referee: Peter Bankes.

Attendance: 10,140 (1,570 Chelsea).