By MARK IRWIN
ROMAN ABRAMOVICH turned up at Chelsea expecting an earful and left wondering what all the fuss was about.
The absentee owner has hardly been seen at Stamford Bridge this season as the wheels have come off for his struggling team.
But if the billionaire Russian expected to walk into a supporters’ revolt he was in for a surprise as fans’ favourites Frank Lampard and John Terry made sure it was smiles all round.
It was his first visit to the Bridge since last month’s 2-1 win against Arsenal, and even Abramovich chuckled as Lampard’s 199th Chelsea goal was celebrated with chants of “Roman, Roman sign him up”.
But the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for captain Terry when he headed in his team’s fourth goal to finish off brave Brentford.
Manager Rafa Benitez had demanded Terry prove his full fitness following a three-month lay-off with a knee injury before restoring him to his starting line-up on a regular basis.
But the 32-year-old centre-half strolled through this game like a spring chicken before squeezing his 81st-minute header inside the back post from Oscar’s cross.
It was the perfect end to a decent day’s work for Chelsea as they secured a fifth-round trip to Middlesbrough with the minimum of fuss.
There is a dark cloud on the horizon, though.
If they get past Boro, they then face the winners of tonight’s Manchester United v Reading tie.
The sight of manager-waiting-to-happen Avram Grant watching from Abramovich’s box must have given Benitez a few anxious first-half moments as his team laboured to break down their neighbours from League One.
But the busy Bees had put so much effort into chasing every ball and closing down their superstar opponents that it was bound to take its toll.
The first tie at Brentford had been slugged out in appalling conditions on a mud-heap of a pitch. But with the sun shining and Chelsea able to stroke the ball about, there was only ever going to be one outcome this time.
Benitez was certainly taking no chances, selecting all of his “big’ characters after watching so many of his Premier League rivals paying the FA Cup price for resting their stars.
In fact, he had so many options at centre-half he ended up playing all four of them.
It was that experience which proved decisive in the end and once they had their noses in front from Juan Mata’s 54th-minute goal it was game over for Brentford.
Mata struck with a precise shot from the edge of the area after Harlee Dean had failed to deal with Petr Cech’s long punt down the middle.
If there was an element of route one about Chelsea’s opener, there was no questioning the quality of their second as Oscar backheeled Branislav Ivanovic’s low cross over the line in the 68th minute.
The little Brazilian is starting to flourish after a slow start to his Chelsea career and looks more at home in the No 11 shirt with every game.
In time he might even become as influential as Mata, the Spanish playmaker who remains the one player Chelsea cannot afford to be without.
It was Mata’s 71st-minute cross which allowed Lampard to volley in and move to within three of Bobby Tambling’s 202-goal club record.
With better finishing, he probably could have reached that milestone yesterday but missed twice right in front of goal and brought a sharp save from keeper Simon Moore with a stooping header.
Yet he was still given a standing ovation when he was withdrawn for the final 10 minutes with the tie put to bed.
The home fans were still on their feet seconds later when Terry peeled away at the back post to finish off Oscar’s cross.
But it was still the visiting Brentford supporters who were making all the noise, cheekily demanding “we want Torres’ as Chelsea’s £50million striker was left on the subs’ bench.
Uwe Rosler’s team did have the ball in the net shortly before the interval through Marcello Trotta but ref Neil Swarbrick had already blown for a David Luiz foul on Adam Forshaw.
Brentford were far from happy by Luiz’s bodycheck which left substitute Jake Reeves concussed and his team down to 10 men.
But nothing could take the gloss off the afternoon for a team who will return to their League One promotion chase reinvigorated by the £750,000 generated from their first visit to Stamford Bridge since 1946.
For Chelsea, the fight to save their season continues on an almost daily basis.
Abramovich might be smiling for now but no one at the Bridge should be under illusions about the wind of change blowing their way this summer.